North Korea 'increasingly' using cryptocurrency to evade sanctions | Science & Tech News | Sky News

   2019-04-15 00:04

North Korea is increasingly using cryptocurrency to bypass international sanctions and could use it to help fund programmes to build weapons of mass destruction, a report says today.



This form of money, such as Bitcoin, probably only plays a peripheral role in Pyongyang’s fundraising and sanctions-evasion efforts at present, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) paper said.

“However, the sophistication of North Korea’s broader cyber crime operations and its general demand for ongoing financial resources present the risk that its cryptocurrency activity could become a sustained security challenge,” it said.

The scale and scope of North Korean cryptocurrency activity has grown since 2017.

UN reports North Korea has not halted its nuclear missile programme

“The prospect of North Korea engaging in large-scale sanctions circumvention using cryptocurrencies as a means of payment for prohibited service such as luxury goods or facilitating prohibited transfers is a risk that could grow as well,” the report added.

Pyongyang’s holdings of cryptocurrencies could be between $545m (£416m) and $735m (£561m), depending on valuation, it said.

The report noted such estimates come with caveats as it is not clear how much of the money has been converted into a traditional currency such as dollars.

More from North Korea

Actual holdings of cryptocurrencies could be as little as $15m (£11m), the report, by experts David Carlisle and Kayla Izenman, said.

North Korea 'hacking Bitcoin exchanges'

North Korea ‘hacking Bitcoin exchanges’

In 2017, security researchers told Sky News how the cryptocurrency is making it attractive to hackers

North Korea has been linked to cryptojacking and can use the dark web as well as pay intermediaries directly in cryptocurrency, they said.

The report said South East Asia, with a growing cryptocurrency sector, is particularly vulnerable to North Korea’s cyber activities.

“North Korean networks have engaged in fundraising and have evaded trade and financial restrictions through the use of front companies, agents and deceptive financial techniques at banks across the region,” it said.

The UN, the US, the EU and others have imposed extensive sanctions on North Korea to curb its nuclear weapons ambitions.

Sky News graphic

Image: North Korea has been sanctioned in attempts to curb its nuclear ambitions

They include prohibitions on the provision of financial services and restrictions on the trade of raw minerals such as coal.

“To circumvent these restrictions, North Korea has employed numerous techniques to raise and move funds, and to access prohibited goods and services,” the report said.

“These sanction evasion methods allow North Korea to finance its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programmes directly, and to raise funds for its ongoing operations, such as procuring luxury goods and other prohibited items, or paying salaries to overseas affiliates and middlemen. These methods are sophisticated and wide-ranging.”

North Korea 'not halted' nuclear programme

North Korea ‘not halted’ nuclear programme

The state is engaging in “deceptive practices” undermining the effectiveness of financial sanctions, finds UN report

The report called for urgent action so that countries in South East Asia “can succeed in making themselves less vulnerable to the risks of North Korean cryptocurrency activity”.

The publication comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said a breakdown in talks with the United States has raised the risks of reviving tensions.

He also said he is only interested in meeting President Donald Trump again if the US comes with the right attitude, state media KCNA said on Saturday.

SINGAPORE - JUNE 12: In this handout photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) meets U.S. President Donald Trump during their historic U.S.-DPRK summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island on June 12, 2018 in Singapore. U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held the historic meeting between leaders of both countries on Tuesday morning in Singapore, carrying hopes to end decades of hostility and the threat of North Korea's nuclear program. (Photo by Kevin Lim/THE STRAITS TIM

Image: Kim said he will only meet with Donald Trump if the president has the right attitude

Kim said he will wait “til the end of this year” for the US to decide to be more flexible, according to KCNA.

“It is essential for the US to quit its current calculation method and approach us with a new one,” Kim said in a speech to the Supreme People’s Assembly on Friday, KCNA said.

President Trump and Kim have met twice, in Hanoi in February and Singapore in June 2018, building goodwill but failing to agree on a deal to lift sanctions in exchange for North Korea abandoning its nuclear and missile programmes.

The US leader later issued a statement on Twitter that underscored the strength of his personal relationship with Kim and pointed to what he called North Korea’s “tremendous potential” for economic success, once the issue of Pyongyang’s weapons programs has been resolved.


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Bitcoin5,233.9 0.10 % 0.61 % 3.69 %
Ethereum171.65 0.15 % 0.20 % 4.01 %
XRP0.3314 0.10 % 3.09 % 0.46 %
EOS5.420 0.04 % 1.64 % 1.64 %
Bitcoin Cash295.36 0.36 % 4.98 % 8.29 %
Litecoin81.05 0.18 % 0.70 % 2.17 %
Binance Coin21.64 0.83 % 4.28 % 22.29 %
Cardano0.07918 0.21 % 5.03 % 4.71 %
Stellar0.1154 0.13 % 2.35 % 0.80 %
Tether1.000 0.05 % 0.10 % 0.16 %
TRON0.02646 0.11 % 2.54 % 0.85 %
Monero68.15 0.16 % 1.00 % 1.43 %
Tezos1.390 1.20 % 4.91 % 48.74 %
Dash122.33 0.05 % 0.22 % 0.55 %
Bitcoin SV58.26 0.19 % 6.24 % 18.75 %
Cosmos4.360 0.26 % 1.64 % 22.55 %
IOTA0.3066 0.01 % 2.19 % 4.53 %
Ontology1.300 0.26 % 3.67 % 2.14 %
NEO10.98 0.09 % 1.96 % 2.29 %
Ethereum Classic6.250 0.11 % 0.70 % 0.61 %