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Identity Theft Helped North Koreans Get Jobs at American Companies

Earlier this month, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced prosecutions against individuals relating to plots to help North Korean nationals and others fraudulently obtain employment as IT professionals at American companies. Among others, the DOJ has targeted an American and a Ukrainian, both of whom facilitated identity theft to facilitate the frauds. According to the agency, these foreign workers received millions of dollars in compensation.

“As alleged in the court documents, [North Korea] has dispatched thousands of skilled IT workers around the world, who used stolen or borrowed U.S. persons’ identities to pose as domestic workers, infiltrate domestic companies’ networks, and raise revenue for North Korea,” the DOJ said. “The schemes described in court documents involved defrauding over 300 U.S. companies using U.S. payment platforms and online job site accounts, proxy computers located in the United States, and witting and unwitting U.S. persons and entities.”

Victims included multiple Fortune 500 companies, including a tech company, a luxury retailer, and an auto manufacturer.

The digital age presents new privacy risks to the average American. In recent years, cybercriminals (particularly those tied to Russia, China, and North Korea) have become increasingly aggressive in their efforts. Data breaches and identity theft are regular occurrences, and even government entities and the largest corporations have proven themselves often unable to block hackers’ efforts.

Nonetheless, many policy makers have pursued policies that would force Americans to make their personal information more vulnerable to hackers. Of particular concern are proposals to mandate age verification on online platforms, which force all users to give over sensitive information to vulnerable databases.

Courts have recognized these risks: Many judges have held that online age-verification requirements impermissibly burden users’ First Amendment rights.

Forcing Americans to endanger their privacy and anonymity as a precondition to enjoying free speech online is not only bad policy on the merits but – as these judges have ruled – obviously unconstitutional.

Published on May 30, 2024