North Korea made headlines in 2022 by firing more ballistic missiles than any other year ― 38 launches. But besides its ceaseless saber-rattling, the isolated country was also in the spotlight for its illegal cyber activities that allegedly raked in billions of dollars. Crippled by international sanctions, the Kim Jong-un regime, which has refused to abandon its nuclear ambitions, has turned to digital crimes, or stealing cryptocurrencies ― an act feared to help fund the development of its weapons of mass destruction (WMD). “The threat posed by North Korea’s cyber activities, especially its cryptocurrency thefts, is very real and very serious. The money North Korea has stolen, which is now in the billions of dollars, is a pure revenue stream that can finance North Korea’s most destabilizing activities,” said Nick Carlsen, a blockchain analyst at TRM Labs and a former FBI analyst. “Their nuclear, missile and even intelligence operations now benefit from the resources these crimes generate for them.” Alex O’Neill, co-founder of the Belfer Center’s North Korea Cyber Working Group, also said North Korea boasts significant capabilities in cyberspace, especially for generating illicit revenue. “North Korean threat actors are not as sophisticated as some other state actors, but the resources they devote to cybercrime and the experience they’ve amassed over the last decade have helped them develop into an increasingly formidable threat,” he said.
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