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North Korea's army of online game hackers

Kim-Jong Il is looking for virtual gold in them thar video games, or so says a recent report.

North Korea cyber-army?
North Korea's cyber-army?
CBS/Randy Schmidt

From the "I guess this makes sense" files, the New York Times reports that North Korea has unleashed a squad of hackers to infiltrate South Korean gaming sites. The two countries have technically been at war for almost 60 years, and cyber-attacks are the modern-day equivalent to a slap in the face.

The police in Seoul said Thursday that four South Koreans and a Korean-Chinese had been arrested on charges of drawing on that army to organize a hacking squad of 30 young video gaming experts.

Working from Northern China, the police said, the squad created software that breached the servers for such popular South Korean online gaming sites as "Lineage" and "Dungeon and Fighter." The breach allowed round-the-clock play by "factories" of dozens of unmanned computers.

Their accumulated gaming points were exchanged for cash at Web sites where human players are focused on acquiring enhancements for their online personas, or avatars. The gaming software was also sold, the police said; such factories, while illegal, are common in South Korea and China.

Back in 2009, China unveiled the first official rules around the use of virtual currency, aimed at preventing "gold farming" (where users buy their way into higher levels based primarily off the work of gamers in developing countries), but the two Koreas have not been known to respect each others boundaries.

According to the article, the hacking group made more than $6 million in less than two years which was split between the hackers and various government entities.

You can make an attempt at reading the article if you haven't exhausted your monthly allowance of free articles, or if you have a subscription to the New York Times Web site, or if you have the subscription plus or minus the iPhone, or maybe if you have the iPad subscription. I actually read the physical paper. (Sigh.)