UNITED NATIONS, Feb 5 (Reuters) - North Korea continued to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programs during the past year and cyberattacks on cryptocurrency exchanges were an important revenue source for Pyongyang, according to an excerpt of a confidential United Nations report seen on Saturday by Reuters.
The annual report by independent sanctions monitors was submitted on Friday evening to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee. “Although no nuclear tests or launches of ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) were reported, DPRK continued to develop its capability for production of nuclear fissile materials,” the experts wrote.
North Korea is formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). It has long-been banned from conducting nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches by the U.N. Security Council.
“Maintenance and development of DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile infrastructure continued, and DPRK continued to seek material, technology and know-how for these programs overseas, including through cyber means and joint scientific research,” the report said.
Since 2006, North Korea has been subject to U.N. sanctions, which the Security Council has strengthened over the years in an effort to target funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The sanctions monitors noted that there had been a “marked acceleration” of missile testing by Pyongyang.
The United States and others said on Friday that North Korea had carried out nine ballistic missile launches in January, adding it was the largest number in a single month in the history of the country’s weapons of mass destruction and missile programs.
“DPRK demonstrated increased capabilities for rapid deployment, wide mobility (including at sea), and improved resilience of its missile forces,” the sanctions monitors said.
North Korea’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
CYBERATTACKS, ILLICIT TRADE
The monitors said “cyberattacks, particularly on cryptocurrency assets, remain an important revenue source” for North Korea and that they had received information that North Korean hackers continued to target financial institutions, cryptocurrency firms and exchanges.
“According to a member state, DPRK cyberactors stole more than $50 million between 2020 and mid-2021 from at least three cryptocurrency exchanges in North America, Europe and Asia,” the report said.
The monitors also cited a report last month by cybersecurity firm Chainalysis that said North Korea launched at least seven attacks on cryptocurrency platforms that extracted nearly $400 million worth of digital assets last year.
In 2019, the U.N. sanctions monitors reported that North Korea had generated an estimated $2 billion for its weapons of mass destruction programs using widespread and increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks.