Sam Kim, writing for Bloomberg, shares a crazy look inside North Korea’s hacker army:
North Korea’s hacking prowess is almost as feared globally as its nuclear arsenal. Last May the country was responsible for an internet scourge called WannaCry, which for a few days infected and encrypted computers around the world, demanding that organizations pay ransom in Bitcoin to unlock their data. A few years before that, North Korea stole and published the private correspondence of executives at Sony Pictures Entertainment, which had produced a Seth Rogen satire of the country called The Interview.
Jong wasn’t involved in those attacks, but for half a decade before defecting, he was a foot soldier in North Korea’s hacker army. Unlike their counterparts elsewhere, who might seek to expose security vulnerabilities, steal corporate and state secrets, or simply sow chaos, North Korean hackers have a singular purpose: to earn money for the country, currently squeezed by harsh international sanctions for its rogue nuclear program. For most of the time Jong spent as part of this brigade he lived and worked in a crowded three-story home in a northeastern Chinese city. The hackers he shared it with were required to earn up to $100,000 a year, through whatever means they could, and were allowed to keep less than 10 percent of that. If they stepped out of line, the consequences could be severe.
Unless you live in a dictatorship it’s easy to forget how much we get to take for granted.