United Nations Launches Investigations Into North Korean Crypto Hacks Author: Ali Raza Last Updated: 14 August 2019 The crypto industry is faced with various issues pertaining to the security of crypto holders’ funds. Several crypto exchanges have fallen victim to cyber-attacks through which the platforms end up losing some funds in their possession. Since 2017, many crypto exchanges from around the world have been victims of cyber-attacks which are now being investigated by the United Nations. The body is investigating North Korea as the perpetrator of several cyber-attacks on neighboring South Korea. There are many other countries which also fell victim to the cyber-attacks being investigated by the UN. India, South Africa, and Costa Rica are part of the list of 17 countries which suffered these attacks. The investigation has gained momentum after the release of a report which carries details of North Korea’s bid to raise funds for a weapons program. The attacks are believed to have come from a high-level military intelligence agency in North Korea. The agency is called the Reconnaissance General Bureau, and it is widely believed that the agency specializes in clandestine operations targeting South Korea and Japan. Funds acquisition through hacks According to the released report, the agency may have acquired over $2 billion through the different cyber-attacks which have been executed over the last few years. Financial institutions, crypto exchanges primarily, were targeted during the hacking spree. Of the total thirty-five attacks which have been reported, ten were on South Korean financial institutions, three on Indian targets and two each in Chile and Bangladesh. Countries which suffered one attack include Gambia, Tunisia, Costa Rica, Kuwait, Malta, Guatemala, Slovenia, Liberia, Nigeria, Vietnam, South Africa, Poland and Malaysia. Most of the attacks on financial institutions were made through the SWIFT transfer protocol. The hackers gained access to computers belonging to bank employees and sent fake messages. In the process, they also destroyed any evidence of their activity. The investigations by the UN also yielded information regarding the theft of cryptocurrency. Exchanges and their users fell victim to hackers who purported to be crypto miners. Bithumb, a leading crypto exchange in South Korea, was attacked twice between February and July of 2017. A total of $7 million worth of crypto assets were lost during these two attacks. The attacks got worse, and the exchange lost $31 million in June 2018 and $20 million in March 2019. This shows the extent the hacks go as many other exchanges have also been subjected to similar cyber-attacks. Further attacks through cryptojacking Cryptojacking occurs when a hacker uses malware to take over a computer and use the machine’s processing power to mine cryptocurrency. Monero is usually the targeted cryptocurrency in such attacks because it has high privacy levels, which make it hard to trace. The crypto can later be converted into Bitcoin profit. As part of the investigations, the UN reports that they discovered that a piece of malware mined Monero and sent the hijacked funds to a server at a University in Pyongyang. This evidence ties the hacks to North Korea and will help the UN in expanding the scope of its investigation.