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North Korea May Be Distributing Malware-Riddled Games

The North Korean government doesn't like South Korea very much, and South Koreans are big gamers. Taking these premises to their logical extremes, the North Korean government has reportedly started targeting its neighbor to the south by seeding video game downloads infected with some fairly hefty malware.

According to a report from Arirang, an English-language news network based in Seoul, South Korean police issued a report on Oct. 22 cautioning gamers against seeking out illegal game downloads. North Korean saboteurs, the police alleged, had been infecting the programs with malware.

The malware in question purportedly collects location information and IP addresses, and then sends the information to international servers. It's unclear whether these servers are located in North Korea or in other countries known for malware distribution, such as Russia, Latvia or Serbia.

The North Korean government has used video games to attack South Koreans before. In June 2012, a South Korean turncoat met with North Korean government agents to distribute malware-infected games. The destructive software these games contained would have been used against South Korea's Incheon airport, had South Korean police not intervened.

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Malicious hackers can also leverage this malware to launch distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks through infected computers. Malware of that caliber can often steal user information as well, although the police did not mention this functionality specifically.

The police did not explain which games were being compromised, nor through which channels they were available.

The report shows a virtual casino game, although it's more likely that malefactors are distributing malware through popular titles such as "StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm" (an especially big hit in South Korea), or even fake versions of "Grand Theft Auto V," which is not yet available for the PC.

As far as distribution goes, most people who acquire games illegally do so through torrents. Avoiding game torrents is generally a good practice, as they are often riddled with malware, but South Koreans, especially, should think twice before pirating popular games.

Keep in mind that since the South Korean police did not divulge exactly how they linked the malware to North Korea, it could be a case of mistaken identity or an easy scapegoat.

Since game torrents are already no strangers to malware, this may not be a concerted effort but rather a deep dive into the seedy world of torrents from people who don't usually employ them.

If you're unlucky enough to have contracted the malware, a standard anti-malware sweep ought to get rid of it, but South Korean police urge citizens to back up their data and format their hard drives just to be on the safe side.

Of course, the simplest way to avoid contracting malware from video game torrents is to just buy the game through legal channels.

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