Revealed: North Korea Is Secretly Selling Face Scanning Tech

May 16, 2018
Andrea Berger

The following is an excerpt from Daily Beast

Top officials in the North Korean regime, including Kim Jong Un himself, have spent weeks in the global spotlight, participating in important discussions over how to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Yet despite those steps onto the world stage, North Koreans elsewhere are working hard to remain unseen.

Revealed: North Korea Is Secretly Selling Face Scanning Tech (src: Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

In an era of intense sanctions, the country’s overseas business networks know that the more visible Pyongyang’s links are to their overseas trade and finance networks, the more external scrutiny they will invite. To avoid this, they have honed techniques that allow them—at first glance—to appear Chinese, Southeast Asian, or Russian. They leverage relations with foreign facilitators and middlemen, utilize opaque offshore jurisdictions, and create elaborate corporate structures. As a result, they have successfully managed to extend their networks around the world, and remain active in sectors where few even realize North Korea is a player.

The global information technologies (IT) sector is one. Over the last several months, the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies carried out detailed investigations into North Korean IT networks active overseas, including in China, Russia, Southeast Asia, and Africa (PDF). We uncovered firms linked to Pyongyang that are developing and selling encryption technologies, virtual private networks, and software for fingerprint scanning or facial recognition. North Korea-linked IT firms are offering comprehensive IT packages for companies and developing apps or websites for customers who range from small firms in Europe to a U.S. primary school.

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