North Korea has been upping its attempts to garner cryptocurrency through internet fraud since 2017, according to a new report.

North Korea Has Been At It All This Time

A spike of roughly 300 percent in illicit crypto activity has occurred since that year say researchers at the intelligence firm Insikt Group. Their new report states:

The Kim regime has developed a model for using and exploiting the internet that is unique. It is a nation run like a criminal syndicate.

North Korea has been one of the most prominent countries when it comes to garnering crypto funds it didn’t earn. The nation has utilized scams to garner funds from several countries including its neighbor to the south and even the United States.

North Korea is also home to Lazarus, one of the largest and most well-known hacking groups in the world. It is estimated that the country has garnered nearly $1 billion in overall illicit crypto funds over the past few years alone, which have ultimately been used towards revamping its nuclear capabilities.

The nation is presently facing hardcore sanctions from the U.S. and has likely turned to crypto as a means of moving beyond these sanctions and building its economy. This has been witnessed with other countries as well such as Iran and Venezuela, both of whom face scrutiny from the west and have sought help from cryptocurrencies to move around the rules and regulations instilled by America.

The current report goes on to mention:

For the North Korean political and military elite, the internet has become a critical tool. This includes not only using the internet as a mechanism for revenue generation, but as an instrument for acquiring prohibited knowledge and skills, such as those enabling the development of North Korea’s ballistic missile programs and cyber operations. North Korea has developed an internet-based model for circumventing international financial controls and sanctions regimes imposed on it by multinational organizations and the west.

Other Countries May Do the Same

The intelligence team has warned that North Korea won’t be the last country to use tactics like this, as other socialist and dictatorial nations are “taking note.” The team writes:

North Korea has developed a model that leverages the internet as a mechanism for sanctions circumvention that is distinctive, but not exceptional. This model is unique but repeatable, and most concerningly can serve as an example for other financially isolated nations in how to use the internet for sanctions circumvention.

Earlier this year, an American who resided in Singapore was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) for allegedly giving a talk at a North Korea-based blockchain conference. Authorities claim that his speech involved sensitive information that showed North Koreans how they could utilize the power of blockchain and crypto to bypass U.S. laws and sanctions and get their fingers on digital funds.

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