North Korea has funneled $2 billion into its weapons of mass destruction programs by using cyberattacks to pilfer from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges, according to a confidential UN report seen by Reuters and CBS News. The "widespread and increasingly sophisticated" attacks carried out by actors under the direction of a top North Korean military intelligence agency served to "raise money for its WMD programmes, with total proceeds to date estimated at up to two billion US dollars," experts write in the report delivered to the UN Security Council North Korea sanctions committee. The experts said they were investigating "at least 35 reported instances of DPRK actors attacking financial institutions, cryptocurrency exchanges, and mining activity designed to earn foreign currency" in 17 countries.
Attacks like the 2016 hacking of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York allow North Korea "to generate income in ways that are harder to trace and subject to less government oversight and regulation than the traditional banking sector," the experts said, per NBC News. With many nations failing to enforce financial sanctions, Pyongyang also "continued to enhance its nuclear and missile programmes although it did not conduct a nuclear test or ICBM [Intercontinental Ballistic Missile] launch," according to the report that found "continued violations" between February and July. After the report was completed, North Korea tested three short-range missiles over eight days, per Reuters. "We call upon all responsible states to take action to counter North Korea's ability to conduct malicious cyber activity," responded a US State Department rep. (Read more North Korea stories.)