Police are investigating charges that South Korean netizens profited from an online game hacking program they bought from North Korean hackers via ethnic Korean brokers in China. According to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, a 49-year-old man identified by his surname Im paid a large sum of money to a North Korean hacker unit believed to be based in Shenyang, China via an ethnic Korean broker and asked them to develop a hacking program for the online game "Lineage."
The program Im requested was apparently a so-called "auto program" that automatically hunts and kills monsters in the game and accrues items such as special weaponry or game money. Prosecutors seized Im's e-mail records and confirmed that he received the program from the ethnic Korean broker.
Prosecutors also say Im made a sizeable profit by exchanging the game money he amassed using the auto program. If the charges are true, it would be the closest South Korean authorities have come to North Korean hackers.
Cyber attacks that paralyzed major Korean government and business websites this year and last year have been blamed on North Korean hackers using Chinese IP addresses.
"Lineage," released in 1997, is one of the most successful South Korean online games boasting a membership of more than 10 million people. But the game has also seen its share of problems, including people using hacking tools to steal other people's weapons or items and buying and selling cyber money for real cash.