USA charges North Korean over cyberattacks

Christopher Polk via Getty Images

The Justice Department will announce computer hacking charges Thursday against a North Korean government spy in connection with the 2014 attack on Sony Pictures as part of a broad complaint that outlines a series of wide-ranging cyber operations, marking the first time the United States has brought such charges against a Pyongyang operative.

"This has nothing to do with the summit and nothing to do with denuclearization", Wilkison said.

Park, who is believed to be in North Korea, conspired to conduct a series of attacks including the creation of the malware used in the 2017 WannaCry 2.0 global ransomware attack; the 2016 theft of United States dollars 81 million from Bangladesh Bank; the 2014 attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment and numerous other attacks or intrusions on entertainment, financial services, defence, technology and virtual currency industries. It also led to the cancelled release of the film The Interview.

The hackers stole a cache of emails, which were later publicly released to the embarrassment of studio executives.

The hackers used the same aliases and accounts from the Sony attack when they sent spear-phishing emails to several US defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin, and others in South Korea, officials said. They also destroyed much of Sony's computer infrastructure.

Officials state in the complaint that Park was working for a front company named the Korean Expo Joint Venture, which worked on behalf of North Korean intelligence and was charged with generating revenue for the military branch.

The state-sponsored attacks were allegedly carried out by a group of North Korean hackers who worked for a front company called Chosun Expo Joint Venture, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice (DoJ) said at a press conference on Thursday.

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Activity from Park's real-name Chosun Expo account and numerous accounts tied to Lazarus Group activity originated from the same Internet addresses in North Korea.

"The department has charged, arrested and imprisoned hackers working for the governments of China, Russia and Iran".

In 2014, for instance, the Obama administration charged five Chinese military hackers with a series of digital break-ins at American companies, and previous year, the Justice Department charged Russian hackers with an intrusion at Yahoo.

Park is charged with several crimes, including hacking charges, conspiracy and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

It's unlikely he will be extradited because the USA has no formal relations with North Korea.

No North Korean government officials were referenced in the complaint by name, though it does allege the government sponsored the attacks.

Trump met with leader Kim Jong Un earlier this year and has sought to secure a full commitment from the country to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

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