North Korea relying on cyberattacks to fund nuclear weapons: experts

North Korea has relied on cyberattacks to fund an upgrade to its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles arsenal, with help with materials and technology from other rogue states such as Iran, according to findings by experts examining the impact of sanctions on the country.

A panel of experts at the United Nations, tasked with monitoring the impact and enforcement of sanctions against the country, reported their findings to members of the Security Council this week, suggesting that a “total theft of virtual assets from 2019 to November 2020…valued at approximately $316.4 million.”

The panel found that North Korea had been acting through a range of cyber actors to attack banks, crypto exchanges and other institutions, in a bid to steal money to fund its illicit programs.

They also noted the involvement of Iran in the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, the country’s primary arms dealing unit, and its main exporter of missiles and other sanctioned weapons.

According to a report published by the panel, an unidentified UN country said North Korea and Iran had “resumed cooperation on long-range missile development projects … said to have included the transfer of critical parts, with the most recent shipment associated with this relationship taking place in 2020.”

Responding to the allegations, Iran said that a “preliminary review of the information provided to us by the panel indicates that false information and fabricated data may have been used in investigations and analyses of the panel.”

North Korea is subject to international sanctions designed to prevent the funding of its nuclear and ballistic weapons programs. The UN findings show the role cybercrime has played in funding the illegal development of weapons in North Korea, as well as the risks posed to digital currency users holding their money on cryptocurrency exchanges.

Follow CoinGeek’s Crypto Crime Cartel series, which delves into the stream of groups-from BitMEX to Binance,, BlockstreamShapeShiftCoinbase, Ripple and Ethereum—who have co-opted the digital asset revolution and turned the industry into a minefield for naïve (and even experienced) players in the market.

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