Published: Tue, August 13, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

U.N. Investigating 35 North Korean Cyberattacks in 17 Countries

U.N. Investigating 35 North Korean Cyberattacks in 17 Countries

The United Nations is investigating 35 North Korean cyberattacks across 17 countries, according to a report published August 13 by Associated Press.

South Korea, India, Bangladesh and Chile each reportedly suffered multiple attacks by North Korea. These are the thirteen countries that were attacked at least once: Costa Rica, Gambia, Guatemala, Kuwait, Liberia, Malaysia, Malta, Nigeria, Poland, Slovenia, South Africa, Tunisia, and Vietnam.

Some attacks were conducted via the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) system.

After a United Nations report recently accused the North Korean regime of carrying out major cyberattacks of banks and crypto exchanges to fund its weapons of mass destruction programs, a longer version of the report has set out the claims in new detail.

Also, the method of mining cryptocurrency via crypto-jacking was adopted to generate funds for a professional branch of the North Korean military.

According to the report, the increasingly sophisticated attacks are "low risk but high yield", often requiring not much more than a laptop and internet connection.

More countries keep lodging reports of illicit cyber activities of North Korean origin. Meanwhile, it also discovered that a department store in Pyongyang is part of the Taesong Group which includes two divisions under sanction and has been linked to procurement for the country's missile programs.

The committee had suggested imposing sanctions across 6 vessels of North Korea because they were avoiding sanctions and illicitly carrying shipping of refining petroleum-based items.

Under U.N. sanctions, North Korea is limited to importing 500,000 barrels of such products annually including gasoline and diesel.

Within the United Nations sanctions, North Korea is restricted to import not more than 500,000 barrels of petroleum, gasoline, and diesel products.

In South Korea, the experts said, North Korean cyber actors shifted focus in 2019 to targeting cryptocurrency exchanges, some repeatedly.

South Korean crypto exchange Bithumb has allegedly been hacked at least four times by their northern neighbors. The first two attacks (in 2017) each resulted in losses of around $7 million, while the second two attacks (in June 2018 and March 2019) leading to the loss of $31 million and $20 million, respectively. The UN experts also investigated instances of "cryptojacking" in which malware is used to infect a computer to illegally mine cryptocurrencies.

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