North Korea Uses Cyber-Attacks to Fund its Weapons Program

North Korea is Reusing Malware! What Does This Mean?

North Korea has perpetrated attacks on banks and other financial institutions to fund different programs. The funds generated from the attacks originate from different countries and companies. The stolen funds are used to fund different programs that are important to the North Korean government. These stolen funds are harder to trace; therefore allowing North Korea to circumvent sanctions imposed by the U.N. to limit or stop North Korea from testing their nuclear and missile programs.

The circumvention is needed for North Korea to generate funds. This is due to the sanctions limiting and banning certain forms of trade between a country and North Korea. The ban stops the trade of arms or military equipment and technology to North Korea. Therefore, stopping North Korea from gaining new technology, which could be used in their nuclear or missile programs. The sanctions limit North Korea to their own technology. The only way to gain new technology is by illegal means. This can be by cyber-attacks to steal the information, someone selling the information, or a spy gets the information.

The targets were different financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges in at least 17 countries. At least $2 billion was stolen and funneled into the different programs. This was to fund the purchase of military weapons which is cut off due to the sanctions imposed by the U.N. There have been past instances where North Korean hacking groups like the Lazarus Group stole money from other institutions.

The Lazarus Group is linked to different cyber-thefts, starting from around 5 years ago. The Lazarus Group is believed to be behind the 2016 cyber-heist of about $81 million. The targeted account was for the Bangladesh central bank at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Additionally, in 2017, the group launched an attack in which $60 million was stolen from Taiwan’s Far Eastern Bank using malware targeting the bank’s computer system.

This shows that North Korea will do anything to achieve their end goal of funding the weapons of mass destruction programs with missiles and nuclear testing. North Korea will keep on disregarding sanctions to fund these programs by stealing funds.


If your company has had a cyber-attack, contact LIFARS.