Feds Charge North Korean Cyber-Operative In Sony Hack, Ransomware Attack

Feds Charge North Korean Cyber-Operative In Sony Hack, Ransomware Attack

The leader behind the North Korean cyber activities was identified in a criminal complaint as Park Jin Hyok, head of a North Korean government hacking cell that also carried out the ransomware attack known as WannaCry, and hacks against USA defense contractors, university faculty, technology companies, virtual currency exchanges, and US electric utilities.

The lengthy 177 page-long complaint, detailed to reporters on Thursday, alleges that the individual, Park Jin Hyok, was working on behalf of the North Korean government in carrying out the attacks.

The Justice Department says Park and other unnamed co-conspirators were involved in a barrage of cyber attacks that also involved an $81 million heist on the Bank of Bangladesh in 2016 and attempts to infiltrate companies such as Lockheed Martin.

It details how the group used multiple Gmail accounts and went to some lengths to cover their tracks but left a series of electronic breadcrumbs that ultimately led to the hackers and an email account that North Korean government officials were also seen to be using, making the connection to the government. The studio eventually posted it on YouTube, a remarkable turn of events for a major wide release in a time before Netflix streaming Will Smith and Michael Bay movies.

"The scale and scope of the cyber-crimes alleged by the complaint is staggering and offensive to all who respect the rule of law and the cyber norms accepted by responsible nations", said Assistant Attorney General Demers. The group launched their attack on the company in response to the movie The Interview, a comedy that depicted the assassination of North Korea's leader.

The North Koreans also attempted similar unsuccessful online bank thefts between 2015 and 2018, worth an estimated $1 billion.

WannaCry 2.0 was "ransomware" - a form of malicious software - which spread virulently around the world in May 2017, infecting some 300,000 computers in 150 countries.

Park is charged with conspiracy and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The charges and sanctions came amid President Donald Trump's efforts to negotiate with Kim Jong Un's regime to give up its nuclear arsenal.

The Associated Press reported that a North Korean who is believed to have operated out of China will be among those charged.

The US Treasury Department has imposed sanctions against Park and the Chinese-based front company he worked for, Chosun Expo.

"It's been a year and half since he launched a ransomware attack that hit hundreds of thousands of computers across the globe", he added. Investigators discovered his CV and tracked his activities. Prosecutors said the firm had offices in China and North Korea and was affiliated with "Lab 110", an arm of North Korean military intelligence.

Sony Pictures was targeted in another hack blamed on the North Korean group in 2014.

The Sony hacking attack in 2014 was attributed at the time to a group calling itself "Guardians of Peace".

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