A unit of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has published a pair of North Korean-developed mobile games, causing some pundits to wonder about the legality of such dealings.
As detailed by Bloomberg, North Korea’s General Federation of Science and Technology developed the games: a 2007 bowling game named Big Lebowski Bowling and another based on the Men in Black movies. Both games were sourced through the Nosotek Joint Venture Company, which is billed as the “first western IT venture” in North Korea, and offers to provide invoices through “a Hong Kong or Chinese company.”
The mobile games were originally published by Ojom GmbH, which was part of a company called Jamba, that was eventually snatched up by News Corp. and rebranded as Fox Mobile. Bloomberg asked Fox Mobile’s Juliane Walther if her company distributed games made in North Korea. She answered by saying that Fox Mobile “has extensive partnerships with content producers in all areas, with operators, and with the biggest media companies worldwide, including various Asian companies.”
While some worry that money flowing into North Korea could boost that country’s cyber warfare knowledge and capabilities, others, like James Lewis from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, question the legality of such tranasactions.
Any sort of transaction that gives cash to the North Korean government works against U.S. policy. The coding skills people would acquire in outsourcing activities could easily strengthen cyberwar cyber-espionage capabilities. Mobile devices are the new frontier of hacking.
U.S. sanctions against North Korea have been ongoing since 1955 and were just recently increased by President Obama.