The international wheels of justice may grind slowly, but after several reports on the topic, including one from the organization itself, the United Nations is beginning an official investigation of North Korea and its allegedly state sponsored illicit hacking activities. At issue is roughly $2 billion in illegal gains that have found their way back to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, ostensibly to fund its program of developing a nuclear arsenal of its own. The UN published its own report about such cyber attacks, but many mainstream media outlets have recently referenced key excerpts in the report.
The UN’s allegation described a broad-based system of 35 cyber attacks that has victimized some 17 countries across the globe. The Republic of South Korea has been far and away the primary target of these attacks. The UN mentions a total of ten attacks, with India next in line at three, but the rest of the countries were limited to one or two attacks apiec. These countries were Bangladesh, Chile, Vietnam, Nigeria, Kuwait, Liberia, South Africa, Slovenia, Costa Rica, Gambia, Guatemala, Tunisia, Malaysia and Malta.
According to the UN report: “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea cyber actors, many operating under the direction of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, raise money for its WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programs, with total proceeds to date estimated at up to two billion US dollars.”
Independent of the UN report, there have been several other studies from crypto analysis firms that have delved into the nature of cyber attacks in the industry, primarily in the area of cyrpto exchange compromises. Several billions of dollars have been lost in just the past few years by crypto exchanges across the globe, and the attacks appear to be very organized and subsidized on specific occasions by North Korea and other nations bent on raising illicit funds and disrupting the western world.
The UN report details three specific areas of attack: 1) The SWIFT international network for coordinating the flow of cross-border transfers of funds; 2) Various crypto exchanges and their customers, and 3) Crypto-jacking, the process of secretly commandeering the computing power of unsuspecting individuals and then using this power to mine cryptocurrencies for rewards. The UN reports highlights a great deal of detail as to how these illicit activities are carried out: