Sanctions experts from the United Nations (UN) have issued a stark warning to people wishing to attend a cryptocurrency conference in North Korea in February.
The experts warned that any attendees for the event on 22 to 29 February in North Korea would likely be flagged for violating UN sanctions against the isolated country.
This is according to a confidential report due to be submitted to the UN Security Council later this month, Reuters reported.
It comes after independent UN experts told the council in August that North Korea had generated an estimated $2 billion for its weapons of mass destruction programs using “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyberattacks to steal from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges, Reuters reported.
It should be remembered that North Korea has been under UN sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Sanctions against the isolated nation have increased over the years as North Korea engaged in provocative missile tests.
Indeed, as the sanction screws tightened on North Korea, the nation looked to alternative ways to earn vital foreign currency, and one of those ways has been to engage in extensive cyber offensives against mostly Western targets.
The hack was purportedly down to Sony Pictures releasing a film called “The Interview,” which was a Seth Rogen comedy about a plot to kill to the leader of North Korea.
That hack led to the leaking of unreleased films, as well as the publication of embarrassing internal documents and emails, including the salary details of top executives and personal information on Hollywood celebrities.
Another alternative way for North Korea to earn money however has been to be a player in the blockchain and cryptocurrency sphere.
According to Reuters, in April last year, North Korea held its first blockchain and cryptocurrency conference and an organiser told Reuters more than 80 organisations has taken part last year.
And Reuters has seen an excerpt from the upcoming annual report by the UN sanctions experts, which has warned that presentations at the conference “have included explicit discussions of cryptocurrency for sanctions evasion and money laundering.”
The report then spells out that UN sanctions require countries to prevent the provision of “financial transactions, technical training, advice, services or assistance” if they believe it could be contributing to North Korea’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs or to the evasion of sanctions.
A British government spokesman and a Security Council diplomat from another country, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, both said North Korea’s cyber program was used to collect information, evade sanctions and generate revenue.
“Supporting the DPRK’s use of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, risks violating the Security Council’s resolutions because it would unavoidably increase the DPRK’s ability to subvert sanctions and generate revenue for its weapons programs,” the British spokesman reportedly said.
The United States officially charged American digital currency expert Virgil Griffith last week after he attended the North Korean cryptocurrency conference last year.
Prosecutors accuse him of allegedly providing services to North Korea without US approval and evading US laws.
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