According to a new report, the value of crypto earnings ill-gotten of North Korea has fallen, which could have an impact on its nuclear weapons program. According to a Reuters report, the value of cryptocurrency stolen by North Korea has plummeted amid the general market crash, which could jeopardize funding for its weapons programs.
The country has been linked to numerous cyberattacks targeting cryptocurrencies, including the $552 million hack of the Ronin bridge from the game Axie Infinity in March.
In February, a leaked United Nations report suggested that North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs were funded by cryptocurrencies. The country has turned to digital assets amid tough sanctions and as other sources of illicit revenue have dried up during the pandemic.
But the country’s crypto gains from the bull run now appear to be severely depleted, with two unnamed South Korean government sources telling Reuters it could affect how Pyongyang funds its weapons programs.
Global sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear program have made it particularly difficult for the country to access other sources of funding.
At an April event in Washington DC, Eric Penton-Voak of the UN Security Council’s Panel of Experts on North Korea said cyber activity had been “fundamental” to allow North Korea to evade sanctions for years.
He noted, however, that the country has become adept at finding new ways to circumvent attempts to cut off its access to cash.
“North Korea is an innovator in finding new sources of illicit revenue,” he said.
North Korea’s cryptocurrency holdings
While it’s hard to get exact details, blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis told Reuters that North Korea’s former crypto holdings, sourced from hacks between 2020 and 2021, have declined in value from $170 million at the start of the year to around $65 million at current prices.
Meanwhile, the loot from the attack on the Ronin Network, the Ethereum sidechain used by Axie Infinity, is probably worth only a third of its original value.
The Ethereum stolen in this hack, which could have been sold for $552 million at the time, would be worth only around $230 million today. However, most of the stolen Ethereum was exchanged for Bitcoin, Carlsen told Reuters, making the exact magnitude of the losses harder to assess.
Today, major cryptocurrencies continue to face extreme volatility. Bitcoin briefly dipped below $20,000 early Wednesday morning, while Ethereum lost almost 8% and is trading at around $1,135, according to coingecko.