September 1, 2019 / 12:14 PM / 18 days ago

North Korea denies it amassed $2 billion through cyberattacks on banks

FILE PHOTO: A hooded man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in this illustration picture taken on May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea denied on Sunday allegations that it had obtained $2 billion through cyberattacks on banks and cryptocurrency exchanges, and accused the United States for spreading rumours.

A United Nations report seen by Reuters last month said North Korea had used “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyberattacks to steal from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges, amassing $2 billion which it used to fund weapons of mass destruction programmes.

“The United States and other hostile forces are now spreading ill-hearted rumors,” North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency reported, citing a statement from the spokesperson for the National Coordination Committee of the DPRK for Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism.

“Such a fabrication by the hostile forces is nothing but a sort of a nasty game aimed at tarnishing the image of our Republic and finding justification for sanctions and pressure campaign against the DPRK,” the statement said.

Washington has made scant progress towards its goal of getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programme, despite three meetings between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea’s vice foreign minister said on Saturday that hopes for talks with Washington were fading, and criticised Mike Pompeo’s recent comments about “North Korea’s rogue behaviour”.

Pyongyang has been blamed in recent years for a series of online attacks, mostly on financial networks, in the United States, South Korea and over a dozen other countries, as experts say such cyber activities generate hard currency for the regime.

The crux of the allegations against North Korea is its connection to a hacking group called Lazarus that is linked to $81 million cyber heist at the Bangladesh central bank in 2016 and a 2014 attack on Sony’s Hollywood studio.

Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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