Remember the giant hack of Sony Pictures in 2014? A lengthy piece from the BBC makes the case that it was merely a "dry run" for a much larger hack two years later, one resulting in perhaps the most brazen bank heist in history. The FBI has long blamed North Korea for both attacks, and the BBC story not only shares new details of the bank heist but explains how Pyongyang, though its populace remains largely impoverished and deprived of technology, has nonetheless managed to create a formidable network of hackers known as the Lazarus Group. As for the heist, the story recounts how hackers infiltrated Bangladesh's national bank through a simple phishing scam—a bogus job applicant got a staffer to download his resume and thus infect the computer system—then spent about a year setting up elaborate pathways in a bid to empty the bank's coffers of $1 billion.
They might have gotten nearly all that money, if not for a stroke of bad luck. The hackers tried to route $951 million from the New York Federal Reserve Bank to a bank in the Philippines, but the Filipino bank happened to be on Jupiter Street. Because Jupiter was also the name of a sanctioned Iranian vessel, the transaction set off computer alarms, forcing a review that resulted in all but $101 million of the transfer being halted. Then $20 million of that $101 million was stopped because the hackers spelled "foundation" as "fundation." Still, that means they got away with $81 million, an impressive feat. The story explains how North Korea plucks the brightest math and science students from school as early as age 12 and sends them to the capital for special training. Then they are eventually sent to China, where the transformation from "mathematical geniuses to hackers" is completed. (Read the full, sprawling story.)