Nick Roy, a cybersecurity researcher at GreyNoise, has been researching IPs and websites from North Korea and the country’s overall presence on the World Wide Web for years and late last year found something interesting – North Korean animators were secretly working on major shows from Amazon and Max.

According to WIRED, in December 2023, Roy found a misconfigured cloud server on a North Korean IP address containing thousands of animation files made for various companies, including season 3 of the animated series Invincible from Amazon and Iyanu: Child of Wonder from Max.

The details of the investigation are described in detail in a report by the Stimson Center as part of the 38 North Project, a North Korea-focused think tank. It provides insight into how North Korea uses skilled IT workers to raise money for its regime.

When Roy first found the server, there were daily updates, but they stopped in February 2024. Martin Williams, a senior researcher at the 38 North Project, said that the server was probably used by North Korean animators to receive tasks and send back completed work.

The server, which, although it has a login page, was accessible without it, contained editing comments and instructions in Chinese that were translated into Korean, the researchers wrote in their report. A sample of the files accessed by WIRED contains detailed images of the anime and video clips with notes for the authors and date stamps on various files.

In addition to Invincible and Iyanu: Child of Wonder, the researchers also found files from Japanese anime and animation studios from Japan. There were also files and projects that could not be identified, including many files with videos of horses and a Russian book about horses.

Skybound Entertainment, the studio behind the Invincible series for Amazon, published a post on X in which it said it does not work with North Korean companies and has no idea of any ties to such organizations. Nevertheless, the studio promised to investigate the situation.

Martin Williams says that it is quite possible that a shell company in China is being used to conceal the activities and participation of animators from North Korea.