Bloomberg reported Wednesday that whether North Korean leader Kim Jong Un can hold on to power for another 10 years may depend on state hackers, whose cybercrimes finance the North’s nuclear arms program and prop up the economy.
North Korea has raised around 2.3 billion U.S. dollars through cyber crime 10 years into Kim’s regime. According to the U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency under the Department of Homeland Security and United Nations investigators, North Korea’s state-backed “malicious cyber activities” extort money through ransomware, hijack digitally mined currency, and launder ill-gotten gains through cryptocurrency exchanges. Pyongyang, which has called for eased sanctions to the international community while turning down Washington’s calls to return to negotiations on denuclearization, is relying on cybercrime and illegal vessel transfer to support its economy. Bloomberg described cybercrimes as providing a lifeline for the struggling North Korean economy.
Bloomberg reported that North Korea has deployed “AppleJeus” malware in more than 30 countries, raising 316.4 million dollars from 2019 to November 2020. The value is comparable to North Korea’s coal exports, which are capped at 400 million dollars a year under global sanctions.