Elon Musk now has $63Billion to buy Twitter

<SUNBIGHT>~Internet~Orie~24th April,2022 @ 13:49 WAT~SpacexMania

ELON Musk has announced that he has secured $US46.5 billion ($63 billion) in funding for the purchase of Twitter, increasing pressure on the company’s board of directors to reach a deal.

Musk unveiled a bid to purchase the social networking site last week, offering $US54.20 per share, or almost $US43 billion in cash. His first statement did not specify how he planned to fund his purchase.

As reported on Thursday in papers filed with US securities authorities, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that the money will come from Morgan Stanley and other banks, with part of it backed by his substantial stake in the electric vehicle manufacturer.

An official response from Musk has not been received by Twitter, which has implemented an anti-takeover mechanism known as a poison pill, which may make a takeover effort prohibitively costly.

On Thursday, the business said that it had received Musk’s modified proposal as well as “additional information on prospective finance,” and that its board of directors was “committed to undertaking a thoughtful, complete, and deliberate examination.”

Musk, who owns approximately 9% of Twitter’s stock, has indicated that he is considering a tender offer, in which he would attempt to persuade other shareholders to pledge their stock to him at a specific price on a specific date, bypassing the board of directors. Musk has previously stated that he is considering a tender offer.

In the event that a sufficient number of shareholders agree, Musk may use it as leverage to persuade the board of directors to remove the poison pill defense against his bid.

Musk, on the other hand, hasn’t determined whether or not to do so. The “poison pill” defence, which was accepted by Twitter’s board of directors last week, may render a takeover bid prohibitively costly. If someone were to purchase a 15% interest in the firm, it would result in a massive dividend distribution to shareholders, which may cause Twitter to go bankrupt.

Barclays, Bank of America, Societe Generale, Mizuho Bank, BNP Paribas, and MUFG are among the other financial institutions that have contributed to Musk’s finance. Morgan Stanley is one of Twitter’s largest stockholders, ranking third after Vanguard Group and Elon Musk in terms of value.

Musk’s documents state that $US13 billion in financing came from Morgan Stanley and other banks, that up to $US12.5 billion would be loans secured by his Tesla stock, and that he has committed $US21 billion in equity, “directly or indirectly,” from himself, though he did not specify where the funds would come from.

According to the filing, the equity commitment may be lowered as a result of contributions from others or the assumption of new debt.

According to Forbes, Musk is the world’s richest individual, having amassed a fortune of almost $US279 billion. Much of his wealth, though, is invested in Tesla shares — according to FactSet, he owns approximately 17 percent of the firm, which is valued at more than $US1 trillion — and SpaceX, his privately-owned space enterprise. It’s not known how much money Musk has on hand.

Tesla enables senior officers to use their company’s stock as collateral for loans, but the amount of money they may borrow is limited to 25 percent of the value of the stock pledged. Musk has 172.6 million shares, which are worth $US 176.47 billion, according to Forbes.

According to a Tesla proxy statement, a little more than 51 percent of his stock has already been pledged as a kind of collateral. That implies Musk could use the remaining share to borrow around $21.5 billion, which is a significant amount of money.

Musk’s recent step, according to Donna Hitscherich, a finance professor at Columbia University, demonstrates that he is “ratcheting up the seriousness of purpose” by lining up important institutions that may fund his bid for the company.

“If you’re looking for funding, they are the obvious suspects,” she said. “However, it is moving in the direction that he may be able to make good on his intentions if he goes ahead and launches the tender offer.”

Following the announcement of the funding, Twitter’s stock price jumped marginally to $US46.95 in late-afternoon trade on Thursday. The stock is now trading at $US7.25, which is 13% below Musk’s offer.

In the filings, it is stated that Musk “is attempting to negotiate a formal deal for the purchase of Twitter… and is willing to initiate such discussions immediately.” Tender offers are attempts to persuade other shareholders to commit their shares in exchange for cash at a certain price and on an established date.

In the event that a sufficient number of shareholders agree, Musk may use it as leverage to persuade the board to abandon the poison pill defense. Musk hinted at the prospect of a tender offer in a series of tweets this week that included the term “tender” many times.■

Jack Dorsey breaks silence on Elon Musk’s offer to buy Twitter

<SUNBIGHT>~Internet~Nkwo~22nd April 2022 @ 23:14 WAT~India Today

Responding to a Twitter user over the weekend, Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey said referred to the board as “consistently the dysfunction of the company”.

TWITTER co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey has finally opened up on Elon Musk’s offer to buy Twitter for $43 billion. Last week, the Tesla CEO proposed an offer to buy the microblogging site for $54.20 per share in cash.

The board of directors has issued a new “shareholder rights plan” to block Musk’s offer, which comes as a major setback to the billionaire’s efforts to take full control of Twitter.

Dorsey stepped down as Twitter CEO last year, handing over responsibilities to Parag Agrawal. Responding to a Twitter user over the weekend, Dorsey said referred to the board as “consistently the dysfunction of the company”. He remains a board member till next month with his 2.2 per cent share.

Dorsey also agreed with venture capitalist Gary Tan that a badly run board “can literally make a billion dollars in value disappear”. When another Twitter user asked him if he was allowed to speak publicly on the matter, he clearly said “No”.

Musk recently said, “with Jack departing, the Twitter board collectively owns almost no shares!” “Objectively, their economic interests are simply not aligned with shareholders,” he also said.

Last week, Musk proposed an offer to buy 100 per cent stake in Twitter for 43 billion, which is $54.20 per share. And all of it in cash. In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Musk said, “My offer is my best and final offer and if it is not accepted, I would need to reconsider my position as a shareholder.”

He also said that the microblogging site has “extraordinary potential”, which he wants to unlock. Twitter’s board of directors later issued a new “shareholder rights plan” to block Musk’s offer.

Speaking at the TED 2022 conference in Vancouver last week, the Tesla CEO said he has plan B if Twitter doesn’t accept his offer. He hasn’t revealed details of his next move yet.■

India and Israel Successfully Test MRSAM Defense System 

<SUNBIGHT>~Technology~Nkwo~22nd April,2022 @ 22:50 WAT~TheDefensePost

ISRAEL Aerospace Industries (IAI) and India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) successfully carried out test firings of the Medium-Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MRSAM) Air and Missile Defense System.

During the missile tests, four successful interceptions were conducted in various scenarios at different ranges and angles. The trials were conducted at the Integrated Test Range in Chandipur, near the coast of the Indian state of Odisha in the presence of DRDO and IAI engineers.

As a part of the test, two interceptors were launched from a portable land-based system and two others from a naval-based system. The system’s radar successfully detected all four interceptors. 

“This successful trial is another example of the strong connection and quality of the technological partnership between IAI and India,” President and CEO of IAI Boaz Levy said.

“The trial proved, once again, IAI’s advanced capabilities in air defense, which are leading the global industry,” Levy added.

The success of the trials is seen as a major source of relief for the Indian military, which has been engaged in a standoff with China at the northern border in the Himalayas for over two years now.


The MRSAM resembles the Israeli Barak-8 missiles, but it has been incorporated with multiple changes and adaptations to cater to the local needs of India.

DRDO had successfully handed a customized version of the MRSAM to the Indian Air Force last year.

Capable of 360-degree defense against aerial threats, MRSAM is capable of shooting down fighter jets, unmanned aerial vehicles, and missiles.  

The weapon system consists of a mobile launcher system, which can launch eight canisterized missiles, and a multi-function radar to track and monitor targets. The combat management system uses the information sent from the radar to calculate the distance of the target and launch an attack. 

MRSAM has a range of up to 70 kilometers (43 miles) and a maximum speed of Mach 2 (1534 miles per hour).■

Sen. Bernie Sanders Describes Billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos As Oligarchs For “taking joy rides on their rocket ships to outer space.”

<SUNBIGHT>~USA~Eke~11th April, 2022 @ 01:16 WAT

JEFF Bezos wants a moon landing, Elon Musk is planning a mission to Mars and Sen. Bernie Sanders, doesn’t appear to be impressed by any of it.

On Wednesday, at a meeting of the U.S. Senate Committee on Budget, Sanders raised an issue that’s been a regular part of his political platform for many years: wealth distribution.

“Anyone who thinks we do not have an oligarchy right here in America is sorely mistaken,” he said. “Today in America, multibillionaires like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson are off taking joy rides on their rocket ships to outer space.”

Sanders appeared to be citing the three billionaires’ spaceflight companies: SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, respectively. All three U.S.-based businesses have played a large part in redefining — and even reviving — national conversations around modern space exploration.

Musk, Bezos and Branson have each poured large sums of their own money into those companies: Bezos, for example, spends $1 billion of his own Amazon stock per year on Blue Origin. But while his brief trip to space in a Blue Origin rocket last July could be deemed a “joy ride,” it’s doubtful that he’d call his spending frivolous.

Rather, Blue Origin’s mission statement defines the company’s goals as essential to humanity’s future survival, emphasizing that “in order to preserve Earth, our home, for our grandchildren’s grandchildren, we must go to space to tap its unlimited resources and energy.”

Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, similarly told Time magazine in December that his “goal overall has been to make life multi-planetary and enable humanity to become a spacefaring civilization,” thus preserving the planet. In October, SpaceX was valued at $100.3 billion following a secondary share sale.

To Sanders, those plans are more displays of opulence than humanity-enriching endeavors, especially considering “over half of the people in this country are living paycheck to paycheck,” he said.

“In our country, the two wealthiest people now own more wealth than the bottom 42% of our population,” Sanders added, referencing reports that Bezos and Musk own more wealth than a combined 130 million Americans.

Data from Federal Reserve System seems to confirm Sanders’ estimates: In 2021′s fourth quarter, the top 1% of Americans owned 32.3% of the nation’s wealth, while the bottom 50% owned 2.6%.

The pandemic only broadened that wealth gap. Musk, whose net worth is $286 billion as of March 31, gained $121 billion in 2021, according to charity organization Oxfam. The organization estimated that the 10 richest people in the world added more than $400 billion to their fortunes last year.

In 2020, Sanders co-sponsored the Make Billionaires Pay Act, which proposed that individuals with more than $1 billion in net assets pay higher taxes to cover the costs and services for public and private health insurance for uninsured individuals for one year, including prescription drugs and care related to Covid-19.

The bill was introduced to the Senate in August 2020, but no further action was taken.

Unsurprisingly, Sanders has also spoken out against private space companies obtaining government funding. Congress is currently considering sending $10 billion to NASA, which would funnel those funds to a private company in a high-value contract for moon landers. On Wednesday, Sanders tweeted his strong opposition to the provision, arguing that companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX don’t need the cash.

“To my mind, if you’re worth $180 BILLION, if you’ve got mansions and a superyacht, if your hobby is trying to go to the moon or Mars or wherever, you’re doing pretty well for yourself,” Sanders wrote. “No, Mr. Bezos, you don’t need $10 billion in corporate welfare to subsidize your space travel.”

The Billionaires did not immediately respond to questions as the time of this publication.■

Is Crypto a Miracle or Scam?

<SUNBIGHT>~Cryptocurrency~Nkwo~5th March,2022 @ 08:35 WAT

CRYPTOCURRENCY is officially mainstream. Approximately 16 percent of all Americans have invested, traded, or used a decentralized, blockchain-based token, which is a number that seems to increase everyday.

The Super Bowl—the singular marquee event for advertisers—was absolutely canvassed with crypto platform ads, picking up ultra high-profile celebrity endorsers in million dollar commercial productions.

At last, a financial apparatus once condemned to the arctic regions of the economy has firmly pried its way into common society.

For those of us who haven’t made the jump yet, crypto appears to be both enticing and terrifying—caught in an uncomfortable place between a pernicious scam and a potential miracle.

There are so many questions worth considering. What happens if you invest money into a coin that crashes? How easy is it to pull money out? Have you already missed the boat? And, a big one lots of people likely don’t even think about: what about tax season?

The idea of navigating any Ethereum holdings in April is terrifying. Which is why I consulted H&R Block’s cryptocurrency tax experts, as well as other financial experts, to help navigate these treacherous waters.

The more you talk to people about crypto, the more you understand that currently, this is a realm filled with hedges, guesswork, and theories. That opens up a lot of room for potential, as well as plenty of exposures.

With so much volatility, many that have remained on the sidelines might wonder why anyone would put their money into these assets. 

“If you look at the people with the most wealth, they start to say, ‘How can I diversify [my investments] even further, as not to see as many swings in my portfolio?'” says Marc Russell, a financial adviser. “For the average investor, when you start to think about diversification, I’m starting to think that crypto is a good way to go.

However, you do not want to put everything into crypto, because you do have that volatility.”

Russell, like many crypto agnostics, allocates only 10 percent of his portfolio to individual stocks and cryptocurrencies—essentially the “higher-risk” portion of his balance sheet.

That’s because, as finance folks and H&R Block’s own tax experts explain, crypto is still in its nascent form, and we do not yet know how the decentralized revolution will meld with global economic policy. But it’s likely only a matter of time.

Transactions involving cryptocurrency are taxable. Because tax reporting guidance is in its early stages for cryptocurrency, consumers may have questions about how to ensure they get it right.

For instance, one of the most fascinating things I learned when consulting with H&R Block’s crypto tax specialists is that as of right now, there aren’t any rules preventing investors from taking current tax losses on “wash sales” in regards to digital tokens.

In layman’s terms, a wash sale is when someone sells a security at a loss and immediately buys it back up within 30 days—artificially creating a tax deduction.

This practice is disallowed by the United States Tax Code for other assets. The loss from a wash sale is deferred until the replacement property is disposed of…but those same provisions haven’t carried over into crypto—emblematic of how murky so many crypto parameters are in 2022.

“The analysis is that wash sale rules apply to stocks and securities by law, but the IRS treats cryptocurrency as property,” says Megan Hurlbert, a Tax Research Analyst at H&R Block. “Because the wash sale disallowance rules are specifically limited to stocks and securities, they do not currently apply to cryptocurrency.” 

Frankly, the reporting challenges that digital currency has wreaked upon the tax filing process is truly profound.

The experts at H&R Block pointed out to me literally dozens of potential cryptocurrency transactions that could complicate your tax return.

For instance, if someone pays you for a service in Bitcoin, you will generally report that as wages or business income on your tax return. Then, you will have another reportable transaction when you sell that Bitcoin, at which point you gain or loss would generally be taxed like any other capital asset.

Do you enjoy working the DeFi markets every morning like a stock market? Make sure to keep a record of all of those transactions, because as Hurlbert says, “You need to have reliable records to prove how much you paid for each asset, how long you held the asset and how much gain or loss you incurred on the transaction.

Some exchanges will track most of that information for you, but the ultimate responsibility is yours to have proof of any gain or loss.” 

But it does feel like a singularity between fiat currency and blockchain coins is coming sooner than later. In New York City ATMs are equipped with the ability to cash out Bitcoin, and the country of El Salvador just adopted the currency as a nationally accepted tender.

One of the stumbling blocks a lot of people struggle with in crypto is the idea of encapsulating our hard-earned wages in an ethereal, intangible capital asset—rather than, you know, a summer cottage or a pile of Treasury bonds.

The solution to some of these anxieties is the much-hyped metaverse, which is a term at the tip of every Fortune 500 CEO’s tongue lately.

The idea is that in the near future, all of us will be frequently entering a parallel reality, defined by the digital ownership of goods, where cryptocurrency stands as the monetary system of record.

If that horizon comes to pass, suddenly crypto holdings will be rendered far more usable—in a traditional commercial sense—than they are right now. Russell was initially a metaverse skeptic, but lately, he’s found himself buying in.

“There’s a lot of unhappy people in the world. They feel stagnant. They don’t have the job they want, whatever it might be. There’s a lot of wants out there. Imagine being in a world where you get all of that, and you’re essentially playing The Sims with your life,” he says. “When I think about the growth rate of gaming in general—I read something the other day that there are more young boys who play games than those who play football and basketball combined—and if everyone is in [the gaming world,] capitalism will certainly play a part.”

“It goes back to your specific goals. If someone wants to reach their retirement goals, their education goals, or the goals they have for their children, and if they feel like they can reach those goals by investing in the S&P 500, then go for it. But if you want to get more returns, if your goals are more lavish,  you have to take on more risks,” he says. “That’s the way I would think about it. If it meets their goals, traditional investing is the way to go. But if they want to reach [different] predefined future goals, then I think it’s fine to take on a little more volatility, a little more risk.”■

[Culled from Vice]

Animoca Leads $10 Million Funding Round In Hong Kong NFT Platform Amid Crypto Craze

<SUNBIGHT>~Cryptocurrency~Orie~27th February,2022 @ 19:10 WAT

UCOLLEX, a Hong Kong-based NFT platform, has pulled $10 million fresh capital from local blockchain game developer Animoca Brands.

The startup’s latest funding round comes as sales of the digital collectibles are gaining ground in the city, which has seen an increasing number of projects launched over the past year. 

Another investor who also participated in the fundraising is MCP IPX One Fund, an investment fund established by the Japanese branch of MCP Asset Management and Animoca, according to a statement issued on Thursday.

Ucollex said the financing round values the company at $110 million. The new capital will be used to strengthen its team and its platform with the aim of delivering an experience that combines digital collectibles and entertainment through features such as virtual artwork battles, cofounder and CEO Robert Tran said in a written response.

“We believe there is still a lot to do to turn collectors from being passive supporters to becoming an integral and active part of the development process,” Tran added. “As long as more creators are emerging and content is growing at the pace that we have experienced in the last few years, there will be tremendous growth for Ucollex.”

NFTs—short for non-fungible tokens—are crypto assets that record the ownership of a digital item such as a piece of artwork, a photo or a video. Anyone can create, or “mint,” NFTs, by uploading their digital files to a blockchain that acts as a public ledger. 

Established in 2020 by Robert Tran and Raymond Hung, Ucollex is a marketplace that sells NFTs featuring toys and pop culture collectibles. Prior to the crypto business, Tran cofounded local watch brand Undone and iClick Interactive Asia, a marketing technology company listed on the Nasdaq. While Hung’s career includes a stint serving as the CTO of Undone as well as working at Microsoft Hong Kong for more than a decade.  

Last year, Ucollex teamed up with world’s largest crypto exchange Binance and British luxury fashion brand Jimmy Choo to launch a NFT collection. (Disclosure: Binance recently announced a strategic investment in Forbes.)

Yat Siu, cofounder and chairman of Animoca, said he believes his company’s latest investment in Ucollex will make it easier for intellectual properties to participate in the metaverse, according to the statement. 

Ucollex’s funding round underscores the increasing popularity of NFTs in Hong Kong, which has seen an increasing number of new projects emerged over the past year.

Among the successful launches are Shrooms, an NFT collection featuring three-dimensional mushroom avatars with Asian elements such as mahjong and red banners. The project said on its Twitter that all of its 3,888 NFTs were sold out within two minutes after its public launch in January. 

But as the emerging market for NFTs has grown, so too have reports of scams. Monkey Kingdom, a Hong Kong NFT project that has more than 23,000 followers on Twitter, said it became the unwitting victim of theft in December.

Buyers of the NFTs lost 7,000 Solana tokens, which translates to about $1.3 million at the time, after a hacker infiltrated the project’s group chat and posted a phishing link, which was used to steal personal data and gain access to their accounts. Monkey Kingdom said it had launched a fund to compensate the victims for some of their losses.■

[Courtesy: Zinnia LEE// Forbes]

Anonymous launches attacks against Russia and pledges support for Ukraine against ‘Kremlin’s brutal invasion’

<SUNBIGHT>~Europe~Orie~27th February,2022 @ 18:47 WAT

HACKING group Anonymous has said that it will support Ukraine in its fight against Russia, and has already claimed an attack on the state-controlled TV network Russia Today.

Russia launched a “full-scale invasion” of Ukraine yesterday, with explosions reported near Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Mariupol, as well as the capital Kyiv.

There have been 137 deaths and 316 injuries of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers reported so far.

While the fight on the ground was happening, Russia Today’s servers were taken offline. The broadcaster has been criticised for putting out “propaganda” to the extent that the UK government has asked media regulator Ofcom to review its output.

Anonymous claimed credit for the attack, posting on Twitter that it took down the “propaganda station … in response to Kremlin’s brutal invasion”. The group did not respond to The Independent’s request for comment.

At the time of the tweet RT was briefly unavailable, before returning online without images.

Currently, the broadcaster is online and appears to be operating as normal.

“After the statement by Anonymous, RT’s websites became the subject of a massive DDoS attack from nearly 100 million devices, mostly based in the US”, RT told The Independent in a statement.

“Due to the hack there were temporary website access limitations for some users, yet RT promptly resolved these issues.”

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are performed by overwhelming websites with junk traffic to render them unreachable. Similar attacks were performed on the websites of Ukraine’s defence, foreign, and interior ministries ahead of Russia’s invasion.

Anonymous is often motivated by political causes, such as supporting the protests after the death of George Floyd in 2020 and its declaration of ‘war’ on the Turkish government in 2015 due to the belief it was working with Isis.

However, due to the nature of the Anonymous group, it can sometimes be difficult to verify their attacks as anyone can claim to be a member of the community without revealing their identity.■

[Courtesy: Adam SMITH// Independent UK]

“Tsaigumi” – Nigerian first Indigenous UAV

<SUNBIGHT>~Nigeria~Eke~18th February, 2022 @ 22:41 WAT

NKEMDILIM Anulika Ofodile is the designer of “Tsaigumi” – Nigerian first indigenous operational UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle).

Flight Lieutenant Nkemdilim Anulika Ofodile is an aerospace engineer with Nigeria Air Force and also the only female in the team of Air Force’s aerospace engineers.

Ofodile is credited for designing Nigeria’s first indigenous military-grade unmanned aerial vehicle.

Nicknamed Tsaigumi, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was unveiled in 2018 and it was built in collaboration with UAVision of Portugal.■

New planet ‘ Proxima d’ found close to Earth

<SUNBIGHT>~Space~Eke~11th February,2022 @ 09:15 WAT

SCIENTISTS have found a new planet in our closest neighbouring planetary system.

The new alien world, named Proxima d, is the third found in the system. It is also one of the lightest exoplanets ever found, with just a quarter of the mass of the Earth.

The planet orbits around Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our own Sun. It is a relatively short four light-years away.

The first of its planets, named Proxima b, caused a stir when it was discovered in 2016. As well as being near to us, that Earth-sized planet was especially exciting because it could potentially be habitable: it has a temperature suitable for liquid water and a rocky surface.

The new planet is not quite so welcoming. It orbits between the star and the habitable area, too close to have liquid water and close enough to its star that a year lasts only five days on Earth.

Further research could reveal even more planets hiding inside the system, the researchers behind the new discovery suggest.

“The discovery shows that our closest stellar neighbour seems to be packed with interesting new worlds, within reach of further study and future exploration,” said João Faria, a researcher at the Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço, Portugal.

Faria is the lead author on a study describing the findings, titled ‘A candidate short-period sub-Earth orbiting Proxima Centauri’ and published today in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Researchers were able to work out the size of the newly-discovered planet using the radial velocity technique. That watches for the tiny movements in stars caused by the gravity of the planets, and uses that to work out their mass.

It is the smallest planet to have been measured using that technique. Scientists using the Espresso instrument on the Very Large Telescope watched as the planet moved the star only a tiny amount: pulling it back and forth at about 40 centimetres per hour.

“This achievement is extremely important,” says Pedro Figueira, ESPRESSO instrument scientist at ESO in Chile.

“It shows that the radial velocity technique has the potential to unveil a population of light planets, like our own, that are expected to be the most abundant in our galaxy and that can potentially host life as we know it.”■

[Courtesy: Andrew GRIFFIN/ Independent UK]

North Korea Hacked Him. So He Took Down Its Internet

<SUNBIGHT>~U.S/ North Korea~Eke~6th February,2022.

Disappointed with the lack of US response to the Hermit Kingdom’s attacks against US security researchers, one hacker took matters into his own hands.


FOR the past two weeks, observers of North Korea’s strange and tightly restricted corner of the internet began to notice that the country seemed to be dealing with some serious connectivity problems. On several different days, practically all of its websites—the notoriously isolated nation only has a few dozen—intermittently dropped offline en masse, from the booking site for its Air Koryo airline to Naenara, a page that serves as the official portal for dictator Kim Jong-un’s government. At least one of the central routers that allow access to the country’s networks appeared at one point to be paralyzed, crippling the Hermit Kingdom’s digital connections to the outside world. 

Some North Korea watchers pointed out that the country had just carried out a series of missile tests, implying that a foreign government’s hackers might have launched a cyberattack against the rogue state to tell it to stop saber-rattling. 

But responsibility for North Korea’s ongoing internet outages doesn’t lie with US Cyber Command or any other state-sponsored hacking agency.

In fact, it was the work of one American man in a T-shirt, pajama pants, and slippers, sitting in his living room night after night, watching Alien movies and eating spicy corn snacks—and periodically walking over to his home office to check on the progress of the programs he was running to disrupt the internet of an entire country.

Just over a year ago, an independent hacker who goes by the handle P4x was himself hacked by North Korean spies. P4x was just one victim of a hacking campaign that targeted Western security researchers with the apparent aim of stealing their hacking tools and details about software vulnerabilities.

He says he managed to prevent those hackers from swiping anything of value from him. But he nonetheless felt deeply unnerved by state-sponsored hackers targeting him personally—and by the lack of any visible response from the US government.

So after a year of letting his resentment simmer, P4x has taken matters into his own hands. “It felt like the right thing to do here. If they don’t see we have teeth, it’s just going to keep coming,” says the hacker.

(P4x spoke to WIRED and shared screen recordings to verify his responsibility for the attacks but declined to use his real name for fear of prosecution or retaliation.) “I want them to understand that if you come at us, it means some of your infrastructure is going down for a while.”

P4x says he’s found numerous known but unpatched vulnerabilities in North Korean systems that have allowed him to singlehandedly launch “denial-of-service” attacks on the servers and routers the country’s few internet-connected networks depend on.

For the most part, he declined to publicly reveal those vulnerabilities, which he argues would help the North Korean government defend against his attacks. But he named, as an example, a known bug in the web server software NginX that mishandles certain HTTP headers, allowing the servers that run the software to be overwhelmed and knocked offline.

He also alluded to finding “ancient” versions of the web server software Apache, and says he’s started to examine North Korea’s own national homebrew operating system, known as Red Star OS, which he described as an old and likely vulnerable version of Linux.

P4x says he has largely automated his attacks on the North Korean systems, periodically running scripts that enumerate which systems remain online and then launching exploits to take them down. “For me, this is like the size of a small-to-medium pentest,” P4x says, using the abbreviation for a “penetration test,” the sort of whitehat hacking he’s carried out in the past to reveal vulnerabilities in a client’s network. “It’s pretty interesting how easy it was to actually have some effect in there.”

Those relatively simple hacking methods have had immediate effects. Records from the uptime-measuring service Pingdom show that at several points during P4x’s hacking, almost every North Korean website was down. (Some of those that stayed up, like the news site Uriminzokkiri.com, are based outside the country.)

Junade Ali, a cybersecurity researcher who monitors the North Korean internet, says he began to observe what appeared to be mysterious, mass-scale attacks on the country’s internet starting two weeks ago and has since closely tracked the attacks without having any idea who was carrying them out.

Ali says he saw key routers for the country go down at times, taking with them not only access to the country’s websites but also to its email and any other internet-based services. “As their routers fail, it would literally then be impossible for data to be routed into North Korea,” Ali says, describing the result as “effectively a total internet outage affecting the country.”

(P4x notes that while his attacks at times disrupted all websites hosted in the country and access from abroad to any other internet services hosted there, they didn’t cut off North Koreans’ outbound access to the rest of the internet.)

As rare as it may be for a single pseudonymous hacker to cause an internet blackout on that scale, it’s far from clear what real effects the attacks have had on the North Korean government. Only a tiny fraction of North Koreans have access to internet-connected systems to begin with, says Martyn Williams, a researcher for the Stimson Center think tank’s North Korea-focused 38 North Project.

The vast majority of residents are confined to the country’s disconnected intranet. Williams says the dozens of sites P4x has repeatedly taken down are largely used for propaganda and other functions aimed at an international audience.

While knocking out those sites no doubt presents a nuisance to some regime officials, Williams points out that the hackers who targeted P4x last year—like almost all the country’s hackers—are almost certainly based in other countries, such as China.

“I would say, if he’s going after those people, he’s probably directing his attentions to the wrong place,” says Williams. “But if he just wants to annoy North Korea, then he is probably being annoying.”

For his part, P4x says he would count annoying the regime as a success, and that the vast majority of the country’s population that lacks internet access was never his target. “I definitely wanted to affect the people as little as possible and the government as much as possible,” P4x says.

He acknowledges that his attacks amount to no more than “tearing down government banners or defacing buildings,” as he puts it. But he also says that his hacking has so far focused on testing and probing to find vulnerabilities.

He now intends to try actually hacking into North Korean systems, he says, to steal information and share it with experts. At the same time, he’s hoping to recruit more hacktivists to his cause with a dark website he launched Monday called the FUNK Project—i.e. “FU North Korea”—in the hopes of generating more collective firepower. 

“This is a project to keep North Korea honest,” the FUNK Project site reads. “You can make a difference as one person. The goal is to perform proportional attacks and information-gathering in order to keep NK from hacking the western world completely unchecked.”

P4x says his hacktivist efforts are meant to send a message not only to the North Korean government, but also his own. His cyberattacks on North Korean networks are, he says, in part an attempt to draw attention to what he sees as a lack of government response to North Korean targeting of US individuals. “If no one ’s going to help me, I’m going to help myself,” he says.

P4x knows the exact moment last year when he was hit by North Korea’s spies. In late January of 2021, he opened a file sent to him by a fellow hacker, who had described it as an exploitation tool.

Just 24 hours later, he spotted a blog post from Google Threat Analysis Group warning that North Korean hackers were targeting security researchers.

Sure enough, when P4x scrutinized the hacking tool he’d received from a stranger, he saw that it contained a backdoor designed to provide a remote foothold on his computer.

P4x had opened the file in a virtual machine, digitally quarantining it from the rest of his system. But he was nonetheless shocked and appalled by the realization that he’d been personally targeted by North Korea. 

P4x says he was later contacted by the FBI but was never offered any real help to assess the damage from North Korea’s hacking or to protect himself in the future. Nor did he ever hear of any consequences for the hackers who targeted him, an open investigation into them, or even a formal recognition from a US agency that North Korea was responsible. It began to feel, as he put it, like “there’s really nobody on our side.” 

When WIRED asked the FBI about its response to the North Korean targeting of US security researchers, it responded in a statement: “As the lead agency responsible for threat response we rely on the public and private sector to report suspicious activity and intrusions, and work together to ensure we understand what’s happening, prevent it from happening to others, and hold those responsible accountable,” the FBI statement reads. “The FBI is committed to pursuing the malicious actors and countries behind cyberattacks, and will not tolerate intellectual property theft or intimidation.”

After his experience as a target of state-sponsored cyberespionage, P4x spent much of the next year on other projects. But after a year had passed, still without public or private statements from the federal government about the targeting of security researchers and no offer of support from any US agency, P4x says he decided it was time to make his own statement to both the North Korean and American governments. 

Other hackers targeted by North Korea don’t all agree that P4x’s hacking spree is the right way to make that statement.

Dave Aitel, a former NSA hacker and the founder of security firm Immunity, was similarly targeted in the same espionage campaign. But he questions whether P4x has taken a productive approach to getting even, given that he may actually be getting in the way of stealthier intelligence efforts targeting the same North Korean computers. 

“I would not want to disrupt real Western intelligence efforts that are already in place on those machines, assuming there is anything of value there,” Aitel says. 

Aitel agrees, though, that the government response to North Korea’s campaign has been lacking. He says he never received any contact from a government agency and lays the blame for that silence specifically at the feet of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. “This is one of the biggest balls CISA, in particular, has dropped,” Aitel says. “The United States is good at protecting the government, OK at protecting corporations, but does not protect individuals.”

He points out that many of the targeted security researchers likely had significant access to software vulnerabilities, enterprise networks, and the code of widely used tools. That could result, he says, in “the next SolarWinds.” 

When WIRED reached out to CISA, a spokesperson responded in a statement that the agency “is committed to supporting the cybersecurity community in detecting and protecting against malicious cyber actors,” adding that “as part of this work, we encourage any researcher that is being targeted by cyber threats to contact the US government so we can provide all possible assistance.”

US government criticisms aside, P4x is clear that his hacking aims primarily to send a message to the Kim regime, which he describes as carrying out “insane human rights abuses and complete control over their population.” While he acknowledges that his attacks likely violate US computer fraud and hacking laws, he argues he hasn’t done anything ethically wrong. “My conscience is clear,” he says.

And what’s the final goal of his cyberattacks on that totalitarian government’s internet infrastructure? When will he end them? 

“Regime change. No, I’m just kidding,” P4x says with a laugh. “I just want to prove a point. I want that point to be very squarely proven before I stop.”■

[Courtesy: Andy GREENBERG// Wired]