Borders were closed and trade was cut off while international sanctions continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, further isolating North Korea, one of the world’s most impoverished nations. But its regime has discovered new ways of raking in funds to continuously pursue its missile ambitions and divert sanctions and regulations at the same time — via hacking cryptocurrencies. The online theft of cryptocurrency has allowed Pyongyang free access to the new but less regulated financial system operated on blockchain technology, believed to be unhackable, through manipulation techniques that exploit human error to trick people into giving up confidential information or to download malware-ridden files. Through such highly engineered methods, North Korean hackers have been channeling billions of dollars into the secluded regime’s pockets, according to experts from the US and South Korea. It has become an efficient means to cover the astronomical costs of missile launches and nuclear tests for North Korea, with a gross national income that stands at 36.3 trillion won ($27.7 billion) — about 1.7 percent that of South Korea.
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