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Organized hackers in North Korea have the ability to launch cyberattacks against critical infrastructure and could even potentially lead to casualties, according to a high-profile defector. Professor Kim Heung-Kwang, a former computer science professor at the Hamheung Computer Technology University, helped teach some students that eventually joined the Bureau 121 hacker group.
North Korea has around 6,000 well-trained hackers - suspected of operating inside of China - with an estimated 10 to 20 percent of the nation's military spending directed towards online cyber operations.
"The reason North Korea has been harassing other countries is to demonstrate that North Korea has cyber war capacity," Prof. Kim told BBC Click. "Their cyberattacks could have similar impacts as military attacks, killing people and destroying cities."
NCSoft, best known to Western gamers for the Lineage MMORPG, is a major South Korean gaming company with big aspirations for the rest of the world. The studio racked up $756 million in revenue during 2014, and wants to create appealing PC and mobile gamers for consumers across the world.
The game studio restructured, and plans to release its paid online game Wildstar as a free-to-play game for the United States. NCSoft also plans to expand with a mobile gaming studio located in Silicon Valley, which could host more than 100 employees.
"This is happening after a long period of anticipation, and it's a significant announcement," said John Burns, SVP of publishing at NCSoft West, in a statement to GamesBeat. "We are doubling down on our PC game portfolio and expanding into mobile. The goal for NCSoft West is to become a leader in the game industry."
Cybercriminals want to victimize people in any way possible, including even collecting unemployment checks directly from the government. As much as $5.6 billion is taken in federal benefits fraud, stemming from identity theft and data breaches.
Individual states and the federal government provide unemployment benefits directly to citizens, but if a person's personal information is purchased on the black market - and the fraudsters are able to file paperwork to collect the benefits. Each state must create their own system to identify - and stop - fraudulent claims, with thousands of suspected false forms submitted.
"The fact that this is so easy to commit is something that has been a real challenge to law enforcement because the fraudsters keep evolving, and they always find a new way to steal our identities," said Wifredo Ferrer, US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, in a statement to CNN. "And all you need sometimes is a name, a date of birth and a Social Security number. And sometimes, you don't even need that to commit this crime."
Sally Beauty has informed customers that it has suffered yet another data breach, investigating a reported security incident that took place in April. The company received reports that customers suffered suspicious activity on debit and credit cards that were used in the store.
The company, which doesn't collect PIN data, found malware on some point-of-sale (PoS) systems in its retail stores.
"We regret any inconvenience this incident may have caused our customers, and we want to reassure them that protecting our customers is our priority," said Chris Brickman, president and CEO of Sally Beauty. "Because we cannot pinpoint exactly which cards might have been affected during our reported date range, we are offering credit monitoring services to any customer who used their payment card at a U.S. Sally Beauty store between March 6 and April 17 of 2015."
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has confirmed more than 100,000 American taxpayer records were compromised in a recent data theft. The breaches took place thousands of times from February to mid-May, and the "Get Transcript" service was the one reportedly vulnerable.
Information taken included tax returns and other data stored on the IRS website, with more than 200,000 reported attempts made to access the agency.
"We're confident these are not amateurs, these are actually organized crime syndicates that not only we but everyone in the financial industry are dealing with," said John Koskinen, IRS Commissioner, during a recent conference call.
A 17-year-old high school student in Idaho is in big trouble after paying a third party to launch a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack at his school. The student has been suspended, will likely be expelled, and faces criminal charges for allegedly hiring someone to DDoS the school.
The student could face a felony computer crime, which has a maximum sentence of up to 180 days in a detention facility. It's likely his parents will have to pay monetary restitution, and the teenager could face federal charges.
The DDoS attack negatively impacted the Eagle High School's network for almost two weeks - with students accessing the Idaho Standard Achievement tests losing their work - and some students had to take the standardized test numerous times. The school administration were unable to reliably access records, including payroll, while e-books and online classes were inaccessible.
Barry Royden, the CIA's former Director of Counterintelligence, thinks cyberterrorism poses a significant threat to the United States. Royden retired more than 10 years ago after 40 years working at the CIA, and has watched the international landscape continually change drastically.
Unfortunately, the United States has been slow to try to respond to cyberattacks - and the country's infrastructure is more vulnerable from outside attack. Rogue hacker groups, foreign state actors, and small hacker groups could pose significant problems when they find vulnerabilities to critical infrastructure.
"The trouble is, it's extremely difficult, in fact, it's impossible - everyone is connected to everyone, and as long as you're connected you're vulnerable," said Royden while speaking to Business Insider. "And there are firewalls, but every firewall is potentially defeatable, so it's a nightmare in my mind. You have to think that other governments have the capability to bring down the main computer systems in this country, power grids, hospitals or banking systems - things that could cause great economic upheaval and paralyze the country."
Silk Road leader Ross Ulbricht, 30, faces a minimum of 20 years in prison, but could face up to life, when he is sentenced by US District Judge Katherine Forrest. In a two-page letter, Ulbricht has asked Judge Forrest to at least give him the chance at leaving prison in his elder years, providing a "light at the end of the tunnel" for him.
Ulbricht was found guilty of seven charges that include narcotics trafficking, engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, computer hacking and money laundering - and will be sentenced on May 29.
"In creating Silk Road, I ruined my life and destroyed my future," Ulbricht wrote in an open letter to the judge. "I could have done so much more with my life. I see that now, but it is too late. Even now I understand what a terrible mistake I made. I've had my youth, and I know you must take away my middle years, but please leave me my old age."
Ninety-three percent of adults in the United States feel it's important to be in control of who can collect information about them, with 90 percent noting it's important to control what information is collected, according to a recent Pew Research Center report.
Ironically, 91 percent of Americans didn't bother changing Internet or mobile phone usage habits, while just seven percent reported making changes in "recent months." However, it looks like more users are clearing their browser history (59 percent), refusing to share information that isn't relevant during checkout (57 percent), using temporary email addresses and usernames (25 percent), and providing inaccurate information about themselves (24 percent).
Things are changing in the United States, with many citizens frustrated by the overreaching powers of the Patriot Act - and the eventual information released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Google, Yahoo and other services are providing end-to-end encryption, though only a small number of users are taking advantage.
A new 77-page report from Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department's inspector general, found that the Patriot Act didn't really help solve any major cases. FBI agents were unable to note a single case in which using the Patriot Act gave them an advantage they couldn't have received otherwise - even though other government officials previously said having the Patriot Act was "valuable."
However, the FBI continually increased bulk surveillance activity, issuing a growing number of orders, without any evidence that it works - and with growing uneasiness of government spying - it looks like changes could finally be made.
"The agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders," according to the report, "but told us that the authority is valuable when it is the only means to obtain certain information."