North Korea spies building dating apps and spending the cash on nukes, FBI warns

Companies could be at risk of hiring secret North Korean agents when they bring remote IT workers onboard, US government officials have warned.

According to the FBI, rogue freelancers from North Korea are hiding their identities in order to earn money for Kim Jong-Un's nuclear weapons programm⁠e⁠—and are building everything from dating apps to online gambling games.

IT workers mostly based in China and Russia are reportedly pretending to be from South Korea, Japan, and other Asian countries in order to get contracts and money from clients in the West.

The US claims that most of the money they earn goes to the North Korean government, which is in dire need of foreign currency.

The officials said: "There are thousands of DPRK IT workers both dispatched overseas and located within the DPRK, generating revenue that is remitted back to the North Korean government.

"These IT workers take advantage of existing demands for specific IT skills, such as software and mobile application development, to obtain freelance employment contracts from clients around the world, including in North America, Europe, and east Asia."

Red flags to look out for include refusals to join video calls and requests for payments in virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin.

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Some of the workers have allegedly even helped the North Korean government's hacking operations, "may steal the customer account information of US or international banks to verify their identities with freelance platforms, payment providers, and companies employing" contract workers.

The work these freelancers are doing includes building mobile apps, dating apps, VR games, facial recognition, and more.

Part of the reason overseas North Korean IT workers are doing this is because they can earn "at least ten times" more than factory workers or builders overseas, with a "significant percentage" of their earnings supporting everything from the DPRK's nuclear weapons programme to forced labour.

It is unclear how widespread the issue is, but the briefing notes that a 'Chinese IT company' sanctioned by the US in 2018 was actually being run by North Korea.

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