How North Korea’s crypto hackers are funding Kim’s missile habit
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed last night to ramp up his country’s nuclear arsenal. Such weapons don’t come cheap, especially for a state targeted by stringent sanctions and with a stagnating economy. So where does the money actually come from? Kim Jong-un appears to be using cyberspace – and stolen cryptocurrency – to pay for his expensive habit. Pyongyang’s global army of hackers are often labeled as technologically backward. The reality is rather different. Unfortunately for the country’s victims in the West, Kim’s cyber crooks are as sophisticated as they come. A UN report earlier this year concluded that the country has used stolen cryptocurrency to fund its weapons programs. But this spotlight has done little to persuade the country to change its ways; in the months since North Korea has simply doubled down on this lucrative approach. The state has a dedicated clandestine cyberwarfare agency, the Cyber Warfare Guidance Unit, informally known as Bureau 121. Running nearly all of its internet through China, one of the North’s most notorious state-run hacking syndicates, known as the Lazarus Group, has increased the sophistication of its operations with time, netting nearly $2 billion (£1.5 billion) from its cryptocurrency endeavors.