UN investigating slew of North Korean cyberattacks on financial bodies

North Korea

The new lengthier version of the report, seen by Associated Press, sets out that North Korea may have carried out at least 35 hacks in 17 countries and that the USA experts are investigating.

Earlier, the AP and other media outlets said North Korea illegally raised up to $2 billion through such cyber activities targeting financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges in violation of sanctions, citing the same report. It added that 13 countries suffered one attack: Costa Rica, Gambia, Guatemala, Kuwait, Liberia, Malaysia, Malta, Nigeria, Poland, Slovenia, South Africa, Tunisia and Vietnam.

The UN has ramped up its investigation of North Korean cyber-attacks following the release of a report detailing efforts to accumulate wealth for weapons programs. The nation's Bithumb cryptocurrency exchange is said to have been hacked at least four times.

It's believed the cyberattacks were used to fund North Korea's weapons program.

After last week's United Nations report summary, the full version reveals the extent and geographical distribution of North Korea's cyberattacks.

The hackers also carried out cyberattacks through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) used to transfer money between banks.

Due to its proximity, history, and number of crypto exchanges, South Korea was the country that suffered the most hacks, with at least 10 attacks recorded so far.

The experts stressed that implementing these increasingly sophisticated attacks "is low risk and high yield", often requiring just a laptop computer and access to the internet.

An instance was cited in the report where over 5,000 separate transactions were sent to different destinations before eventual conversion, making it hard to track these funds. The first two attacks (in 2017) each resulted in losses of around $7 million, while the second two attacks (in June 2018 and March 2019) leading to the loss of $31 million and $20 million, respectively. Previously, a report had analyzed a piece of malware created to mine the cryptocurrency Monero "and send any mined currency to servers located at Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang".

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