The stolen money is used to fuel North Korea’s nuclear program, according to the UN panel.
State-sponsored North Korean hackers are estimated to have stolen $1.7 billion in cryptocurrency last year, the South Korean Yonhap News Agency reported.
That is about three times more than the amount stolen in 2021, according to a report cited by the UN Panel of Experts on UN Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang.
It said that actors working for the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s military intelligence agency, continued to use “increasingly sophisticated cybertechniques to steal funds and information.”
According to the UN panel, Pyongyang particularly targets companies in the cryptocurrency, defense, energy, and health sectors. It prioritizes cryptocurrency hacks to bankroll its nuclear program, the report said.
The panel reported continuous activities at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site although no nuclear test has been detected since September 2017.
It said that overseas North Korean workers, including some on student visas, were another source of revenue for Pyongyang.
South Korea vowed to fight the North Korean money-laundering schemes by cooperating with the international community.
Pyongyang’s “seizure of illicit funds to secure money for its rule and development of weapons of mass destruction is becoming bolder day by day, in means and scale,” said Koo Byoung-sam, spokesperson of South Korea’s Ministry of Unification.
"The shortcut to resolving all problems on the Korean Peninsula, such as the North's denuclearization and promotion of human rights, lies in blocking the inflow of black money to the regime of Kim Jong-un," Koo said.
Kim relies on his army of hackers and cybercrime to finance the country’s nuclear program and prop up its ailing economy. He has ruled North Korea for over a decade.
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