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The UN found North Korea used millions of dollars in stolen crypto to fund its missile programmes

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A photo of North Korea's Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile.
  • North Korean cyberattackers stole crypto worth $50 million (R776 million) that was used to fund missile programmes, the UN found.
  • It said at least three crypto exchanges in Asia, Europe, and North America were targeted, according to media reports.
  • A Chainalysis report in January said North Korean cyberattackers took almost $400 million (R6.2 billion) in digital assets last year.
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North Korean cyberattacks on crypto exchanges scooped up millions of dollars in digital assets that were used to fund Pyongyang's missile programs, UN investigators have found, according to media reports.

"According to a member state, DPRK cyber-actors stole more than $50 million (R776 million) between 2020 and mid-2021 from at least three cryptocurrency exchanges in North America, Europe and Asia," a UN report said, according to Reuters.

The report by independent sanctions monitors was submitted to the UN on Friday, Reuters said. The UN has banned the People's Republic of North Korea, or DPRK, from carrying out nuclear tests and launching ballistic missiles.

Cyber attacks on crypto exchanges are an important revenue source for North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missiles program, the BBC reported.

North Korea has a 7,000-strong army of hackers who launch attacks to steal money, uncover secrets, and disrupt other countries' critical infrastructure such as electrical grids and power plants.

The number of North Korean-linked cyberattacks rose in 2020 and 2021, and the value of proceeds from the hacks grew 40%, according to a study published in January by blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis. Ether made up about 60% of almost $400 million (R6.2 billion) worth of crypto stolen last year, while bitcoin made up 20%, it found.

Pyongyang has continued to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile program, even though UN sanctions targeting funding have been in place since 2006.  

In 2019, UN sanctions monitors said North Korea had generated approximately $2 billion (R31 billion) for its weapons of mass destruction programs by using sophisticated and widespread cyberattacks. North Korea, officially the People's Republic of North Korea, DPRK, is banned by the UN Security Council from carrying out nuclear tests and launching ballistic missiles. 

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