UN experts say they are investigating at least 35 instances in 17 countries of North Koreans using cyberattacks to illegally raise money for weapons of mass destruction programs, and they are calling for sanctions against ships providing gasoline and diesel to the country.
Last week, The Associated Press quoted a summary of a report from the experts which said that North Korea illegally acquired as much as $2 billion from its increasingly sophisticated cyber activities against financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges.
The lengthier version of the report, recently seen by the AP, revealed that neighbouring South Korea was hardest-hit, the victim of 10 North Korean cyberattacks, followed by India with three attacks, and Bangladesh and Chile with two each.
Thirteen countries suffered one attack — Costa Rica, Gambia, Guatemala, Kuwait, Liberia, Malaysia, Malta, Nigeria, Poland, Slovenia, South Africa, Tunisia, and Vietnam, it said.
The experts said they were investigating the reported attacks as attempted violations of UN sanctions, which the panel monitors.
The report cited three main ways that North Korean cyber hackers operate.
One is attacks through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication or SWIFT system used to transfer money between banks, “with bank employee computers and infrastructure accessed to send fraudulent messages and destroy evidence”.
The other two are, theft of cryptocurrency “through attacks on both exchanges and users”, and “mining of cryptocurrency as a source of funds for a professional branch of the military”.
Experts stressed that implementing these increasingly sophisticated attacks “is low risk and high yield”, often requiring just a laptop computer and access to the internet.
The report to the Security Council gave details on some of the North Korean cyberattacks as well as the country’s successful efforts to evade sanctions on coal exports in addition to imports of refined petroleum products and luxury items including Mercedes Benz S-600 cars.