(Reuters) – The coordinator of the UN body that monitors compliance with sanctions against North Korea said on Wednesday that an increased focus is needed on cybercrime, which has become fundamental to Pyongyang’s ability to fund its banned weapons programs.
Eric Penton-Voak, from the UN Security Council’s expert panel on North Korea, noted that despite the broadest sanctions regime ever imposed by the UN against a nation state, North Korea has significantly accelerated its missile testing, especially in the last six months.
“It may not be a coincidence that the words cyber and cryptocurrency do not actually appear in UN sanctions resolutions,” he said in a discussion at the Washington Center for a New American Security think tank.
Penton-Voak said he believed cyber-activity had become “absolutely fundamental”; to North Korea’s ability to circumvent UN sanctions to raise money for its nuclear and missile programs, but the half-yearly expert panel reports did not reflect this because member states had done so. have been reluctant to report violations.
“We rely on UN member states to inform us of intrusions in order to investigate. But many, many member states are quite cautious about their own cyber capabilities,” he said.
“Victims, for their part, are often very reluctant to discuss how the hack happened and how extensive it was … I hope and expect that our reports in the future will rather reflect the central importance of cyber-activated economic crime for (North Korea)).”
Mr. Penton-Voak said that North Korean hackers were at the forefront of cyber technology, as evidenced by the latest hack of the video game Axie Infinity.
Last week, the United States linked North Korean hackers to the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrencies linked to Axie Infinity.
Ronin, a blockchain network that lets users transfer crypto in and out of the game, said digital cash worth nearly $ 615 million was stolen on March 23.
A post on the official Ronin blog said that the FBI had attributed the hack to Lazarus Group, a hacking unit according to Washington controlled by the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s primary intelligence agency.
It has been accused of involvement in “WannaCry” ransomware attacks, hacking of international banks and customer accounts and 2014 cyber attacks on Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Washington has pressured the UN Security Council to blacklist Lazarus and freeze its assets, according to a motion for a resolution reviewed by Reuters last week.