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North Korean hackers stole USD 1.2B in virtual assets



South Korea’s most powerful spy agency The National Intelligence Service, said that North Korea’s ability to take digital assets and steal them is as one of the top worldwide due to the nation’s focus on cybercrimes.

North Korean hackers have stolen the equivalent of 1.5 trillion won (USD 1.2 billion) in crypto and other digital assets over the last five years, and more than half of which in the last year the South Korean spy agency announced on Thursday.

Officials and experts say North Korea has turned to cyber hacking, crypto and other illegal cyber-related activities as a source of desperately needed foreign currency that can help support its economy that is in a state of decline and to help finance its nuclear programme after the harsh UN sanctions, as well as COVID-19 pandemic.

South Korea’s principal intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Service, said that North Korea’s ability to hack into digital assets is regarded as one of the top worldwide due to its determination to combat cybercrime since UN sanctions on economics were heightened in 2017 to counter the country’s nuclear and missile tests.The UN sanctions imposed in 2016-17 imposed a ban on important North Korean exports such as seafood, textiles, coal and textiles and also prompted states in the UN to return North Korean overseas workers. The economy of the country was hit with further challenges following the imposition of some of the strictest restrictions on the epidemic.

The NIS reported that the state sponsored North Korean hackers are estimated to have snatched 1.5 trillion won (USD 1.2 billion) in virtual assets across the globe since 2017 which includes around 800 billion won (USD 626 million) in 2017 alone. The report said that the greater than 100 billion won (USD 78 million) of that total came directly from South Korea.

It stated that North Korean hackers are expected to launch more cyberattacks in the coming year, to steal the latest South Korean technologies and confidential details about South Korean foreign policy and national security.

This month, senior diplomatic officials from Japan, this month’s senior diplomats from the United States, South Korea and Japan decided to step up efforts to curb illicit North Korean cyber activities. A report in February by a group composed of UN experts stated that North Korea was continuing to take hundreds of billions of dollars out of banks and cryptocurrency exchanges and companies.