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North Korea may be using free-to-play video games as cyberweapons

It sounds like it’s out of an old cyberpunk movie, but North Korea already employed this very tactic to infect South Korean computers just last year.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Posted on Oct 24, 2013   Updated on Jun 1, 2021, 3:32 am CDT

Free-to-play video games are all the rage in the gaming industry. Hundreds of millions of players have downloaded countless free games. After all, you don’t have to pay, so what’s the risk?

For one thing, you may fall victim to a sinister North Korean plot, according to South Korea’s National Police Agency, reports Arrirang. By infecting players with malware, the programs could collect masses of data and launch cyberattacks. South Korean authorities are warning gamers to only download certified gaming programs.

This story sounds like it’s out of an old cyberpunk movie, but, the Washington Post reports, North Korea already employed this very tactic to infect 100,000 South Korean computers that they used to launch cyberattacks against South Korea’s Incheon International Airport just last year.

Last year’s video game plot originated from North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau according to a report in South Korea’s JoongAng Daily. A South Korean man allegedly traveled to northeastern China in 2009, met with North Korean traders, and asked them to develop the game software. The South Korean man bought the software for the bargain price of “tens of millions of won” and sold it to South Korean games operators to push to gamers.

The infected computers were used to launch distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against South Korean targets.

Previously, North Korean cyberattacks have targeted South Korean television, financial institutions, as well as air and marine traffic controls.

H/T The Washington Post | Photo via Karl Baron/Flickr

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*First Published: Oct 24, 2013, 9:48 am CDT