The North Korean government has denied allegations that it had illegally acquired $2 billion through cyber attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges and financial institutions.
Responding to allegations made in an upcoming UN report that was leaked to Reuters last month, Pyongyang said the US was to blame for the circulation of “fabricated information”, describing the dissemination of the allegations as “the same old trick as the Hitler fascist propagandists”.
In its report, which is due to be published later this week, the United Nations Security Council’s Panel of Experts on North Korea reportedly claims that the $2 billion was raised during “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyber attacks, and that the funds raised are being used to fund the country’s nuclear weapons programme.
The panel also alleges that Pyongyang used “cyberspace” to launder the money it stole during these attacks, adding: “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea cyber actors, many operating under the direction of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, raise money for its [weapons of mass destruction] programmes, with total proceeds to date estimated at up to two billion US dollars.”
According to the report, investigators have identified at least 35 instances of suspected North Korean hackers being involved in cyber attacks on banks and cryptocurrency exchanges, as well as mining activities designed to earn foreign currencies in 17 countries.
Responding to the allegations in a statement published by KCNA, North Korea’s state news agency, Pyongyang denied the claims.
“The United States and other hostile forces are now spreading ill-hearted rumours that we have illegally forced the transfer of two billion US dollars needed for the development of WMD programs by involving cyber actors,” said a spokesperson from North Korea’s National Coordination Committee of the DPRK for Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism.
“Such a fabrication by the hostile forces is nothing but a sort of a nasty game aimed at tarnishing the image of our Republic and finding justification for sanctions and pressure campaign against the DPRK.”
A separate UN report published back in March linked hackers from North Korea to attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges across the world that resulted in the theft of $571 million.
The majority of this was said to have been stolen in the January 2018 hack of Coincheck, a cryptocurrency exchange based in Japan.
The UN study also accused hackers from North Korea of being behind the 2016 theft of $81 million from Bangladesh Bank.
Speaking with CyberScoop when the latter report was published, Hugh Griffiths, who heads the UN panel, said: “What stands out [from the report] are the amounts of money involved and the sheer scope of the operations, [which are] highly coordinated and disciplined.
“The ability to breach banking security is extremely worrying and raises broader questions.”