Ever wonder how North Korea which is economically-isolated from the world could afford to fund those super expensive nuclear weapons? An in-depth report reveals that North Korea could be funding their nuclear weapons development by hacking banks from foreign countries and stealing millions from them.
Russian leading cybersecurity firm Kaspersky released a 58-page news report on Monday that says Pyongyang is behind a secret government program called Lazarus to electronically take funds from banks in 18 countries.
North Korea has always been a suspect behind several major bank thefts, including the controversial case last year where $81 million was stolen from Bangladesh's central bank account in New York. Even the FBI had to step in to help investigate the modern theft victimizing Bangladesh.
Reports from last year also said that the hackers were actually aiming to get $1 billion from the Bangladesh bank account, but a typo error prevented them from doing so and had to "settle" for $81 million instead. The digital theft was pulled off by manipulating the bank's SWIFT account, the international money transfer system that banks use to move billions of dollars daily between themselves.
Hackers used SWIFT credentials of Bangladesh Central Bank employees to send more than three dozen fraudulent money transfer requests to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York asking for the transfer of millions of funds from Bangladesh Bank to bank accounts in Sri Lanka, the Philippines and other countries in Asia.
North Korea is also believed to be behind other attempted heists in Ecuador, the Philippines and Vietnam. Kaspersky's report also points to North Korea as behind the hacks of over a dozen other nations. The stolen money is then believed to be used to fund North Korea's nuclear weapons program. The countries victimized by North Korea's digital robberies include Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Poland, Taiwan, Thailand and Uruguay.
Kaspersky said that North Korea's attackers hide their addresses by routing their signals to other countries such as France, South Korea and Taiwan. One fatal error led researchers, however, to detect North Korea signals.
U.N. Security Council resolutions have always warned North Korea against openly pursuing nuclear weapons. But the country persisted in its aggressive nuclear arms development, especially under Kim Jong Un who took over ruling North Korea in 2011 after his father died. The U.S. has then led efforts to give economic sanctions against North Korea for its nuclear arms program.
Defense experts believe North Korea has about 10 nuclear warheads, but it is doubtful whether the country has the ability to attach those to long-range missiles capable of reaching the U.S. Still, the country is always threatening the U.S. and its Asian allies Japan and South Korea of using the full extent of its nuclear arsenal in response to the supposed hostilities led by Washington.
North Korea has launched a number of missiles recently. It also indicated it was working on intercontinental ballistic missile ( ICBM) technology. The U.S. and South Korea held last month a series of military exercises that also angered North Korea.
President Trump has been taking a tougher stance against North Korea compared to former president Barack Obama. Trump also said North Korean leader Kim is " behaving very, very badly". North Korea and efforts to control its nuclear arms ambitions are expected to be included among the top priorities to be discussed between Trump and visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping.