North Korea’s “Hacker Army” Turns its Sights to MMOs
South Korea has accused its northern neighbors of using a “hacker army” to attack popular MMOs.
South Korean police have arrested five individuals they believe were responsible for organizing a thirty strong hacking squad that breached the security of popular (in South Korea) online games Lineage and Dungeon and Fighter. The two games enforce limited playtime per day, a feature the hackers quickly disabled allowing them to set up bots that played the game around the clock. Once their robot minions had acquired enough virtual loot the group’s organizers would sell items and virtual currency to human players via trading websites, making a cool $6 million in two years.
It all sounds fairly harmless so far right? Or at least, as harmless as any other illegal gold farming operation. But here’s where it gets murky. According to Chung Kil-hwan, a senior officer with South Korea’s International Crime Investigation Unit, the hackers were all graduates of North Korea’s elite science universities and were dispatched from two locations: the state-owned Korea Computer Center and the Korea Neungnado General Trading Company. The latter, at least according to South Korea, reports to Office 39, a shady little agency that apparently gathers foreign hard currency via drug trafficking, counterfeiting and arms sales. Both South Korean and American officials believe that Kim Jong-il is using this money to fund his nuclear weapons program as well as smuggle luxury goods into North Korea in defiance of United Nations trading sanctions.
This isn’t the first time South Korea has accused North Korea of untoward behavior in the virtual realm. Back in 2009 North Korea was accused of spreading malware that crippled the websites of various South Korean government agencies. It was also blamed for a similar attack this may, which brought down a South Korean bank’s network.
Really, this just one more reason not to give gold/item sellers your business. Not only are you cheating and breaking the game’s terms of service, you might also be helping build Kim Jong-il’s army of nuclear death robots. I’m just saying.