World

UN experts investigate alleged North Korean cyberattacks valued in the billions

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has continued to raise regional tensions.

Kim Jong Un visits the defense ministry (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
Koreas Tensions Kim Jong Un visits the defense ministry (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP) (���N�ʐM��/AP)

UN experts say they are investigating 58 suspected North Korean cyberattacks between 2017 and 2023 that bear a value of approximately three billion dollars (£2.37 billion), with the money reportedly being used to help fund its development of weapons of mass destruction.

The panel of UN experts added the high volume of cyberattacks by North Korean hacking groups that report to the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s primary foreign intelligence organisation, is reportedly continuing.

The report covers the period from July 2023 to January 2024 and reflects contributions from unidentified UN member nations and other sources.

It was sent to the 15-member council as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un continues raising regional tensions.

Kim Jong Un speaks at an event marking the 76th founding anniversary of the nation’s army on February 8 (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
Koreas Tensions Kim Jong Un speaks at an event marking the 76th founding anniversary of the nation’s army on February 8 (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP) (朝鮮通信社/AP)

The North Korean leader is threatening to annihilate South Korea if provoked and is escalating weapons demonstrations.

As a result, the United States, South Korea and Japan have strengthened their combined military exercises.

The panel said activities at North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site have “continued”.

US and South Korean officials have said North Korea is likely preparing to conduct its seventh nuclear test from the site, which would be the first since 2017.

The panel said that during the six-month period ending in January, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK – the North’s official name – launched at least seven ballistic missiles — one a three-stage intercontinental ballistic missile, one possibly an intermediate-range missile and five short-range ballistic missiles.

The experts said the DPRK successfully placed a military observation satellite in orbit after two failed attempts.

A diesel submarine was retrofitted as a “tactical nuclear attack submarine” and added to the North’s military arsenal.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol reiterated that the country would not seek its own nuclear deterrent in the face of threats from North Korea (AP)
South Korea Koreas Tensions South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol reiterated that the country would not seek its own nuclear deterrent in the face of threats from North Korea (AP) (AP)

The panel said it also investigated reports of numerous DPRK nationals working overseas, including in information technology, restaurants and construction, and earning income in violation of UN sanctions.

And in another sanctions violation, they said, “The DPRK continues to access the international financial system and engage in illicit financial operations.”

UN sanctions are not supposed to hurt ordinary North Koreans.

Still, the panel said “there can be little doubt that UN sanctions and their implementation have unintentionally affected the humanitarian situation and some aspects of aid operations”.

But it said “their relative role remains impossible to disaggregate from many other factors”.