A group of North Korean hackers working on a China-based illegal online gambling site have been arrested following a failed attempt to defect.
On Thursday, NKNews.org quoted a South Korean missionary who works on human rights issues saying 12 North Korean hackers, along with their administrator and an official from North Korea’s Ministry of State Security, had attempted to defect in Changchun in China’s northeast Jillin province earlier this month.
The pastor claimed to have learned of the defection from a South Korean businessman linked to a Chinese national with whom the hackers were working on an illegal online gambling site. When the Chinese national learned of the defection attempt, he alerted Chinese authorities, who arrested all 14 North Koreans before they could make it to a foreign embassy.
Other Korean media outlets quoted anonymous individuals claiming that the hackers were supplying South Korean gangs with online gambling software. These illegal gambling operations reportedly had servers based in Cambodia, where other North Korean gambling operations have been rumbled in recent years.
Interestingly, one media outlet quoted a ‘local source involved in the deal’ as saying that some of the poker software provided by the North Koreans included hidden ‘features’ that enabled the software operator to see other players’ hole cards.
It’s long been known that North Korea’s regime sends a small army of computer programmers abroad to operate illegal gambling sites to help generate badly needed hard currency. A South Korean report last summer indicated that these illegal gambling operations and other cyber shenanigans generate close to a billion dollars annually for the Hermit Kingdom.
But this is the first report to suggest that these illegal gambling sites are also rigged to ensure the regime doesn’t end up paying out any more than it absolutely has to in order for its gaming sites to retain a semblance of authenticity.
Which makes us wonder: does anyone actually know the current whereabouts of notorious Ultimate Bet poker cheat Russ Hamilton, who stole $16m from other UB players via the UB software’s ‘god mode’ feature? North Korea is probably about the only place he won’t get harassed by former UB players these days, but perhaps even the Hermit Kingdom ultimately became Kim Jong-unbearable for Russ.