Thursday, November 17, 2011

North Korea turns to online game hacking to raise cash

lineage2s17804gk3E1U45.jpgNorth Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il has struck on a novel, if somewhat desperate, money-raising trick: his online operatives have been raking in cash from his nemesis, South Korea, by employing squads of hackers to make computers continually play and earn points in the latter's massively popular online multiplayer games.
The hackers then sell their escalated privileges, characters and virtual weapons to legitimate South Korean gamers. The New York Times reported on Friday that the scheme had earned upwards of $6 million over two years.
How did it work? Detectives in Seoul allege that 30 North Korea-funded hackers working from a covert base in northern China have written software that broke into the servers behind some of South Korea's massively multiplayer online (MMO) games like Lineage and Dungeon and Fighter. This backdoor access allowed the hackers' software to play the games automatically - and all day long.

Kim's regime is under sustained UN sanctions owing to its illicit acquisition of nuclear weapons technology from Pakistan. It is thought this MMO hack is just one attempt among many by North Korea to earn it foreign currency. Other measures it is said to undertake include luxury goods counterfeiting and drug smuggling.
The revelation by the Seoul detectives could lead to armchair armies playing nation state detective. Of the MMO game World of Warcraft, where the currency is called simply "gold", the website MMOcrunch suggests: "Next time you see some bot gold farming, it could be a North Korean hacker agent working for the government, so make sure to report them. This is war people!"

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