According to the Associated Press, citing intelligence officials, North Korean hackers have stolen cryptocurrencies and other virtual assets worth the equivalent of $1.2 billion in five years.
According to government officials and experts, North Korea has resorted to such measures amid a dire need for foreign exchange to support a faltering economy. In addition, it is assumed that the funds were needed to finance the nuclear program, fight sanctions and outbreaks of COVID-19.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) has reported that the country’s northern neighbor has one of the world’s highest digital asset theft potentials as it has been forced to focus on cybercrime since UN economic sanctions were tightened in 2017 in response to nuclear and missile tests. In addition, the country’s economy suffered from severe sanitary restrictions introduced with the onset of the pandemic.
Hackers working for the North Korean government have stolen $1.2 billion worth of virtual assets since 2017, including $626 million this year alone, according to NIS. About $78 million was stolen from South Korea. According to published data, North Korean hackers will launch even more attacks next year to steal advanced South Korean technology and sensitive information related to South Korean foreign policy and national security.
Earlier this month, high-ranking diplomats from the United States, South Korea and Japan agreed to step up efforts to curb North Korean cyber activity. In February, UN experts said that North Korea continued to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from foreign financial institutions, crypto exchanges and crypto exchanges.
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