US to charge North Korean over WannaCry, Sony cyber attacks

The Wanna Cry attack which hit the NHS last year has been blamed on North Korea

The attack took place before the release of the comedy film The Interview, which depicts a fictional Central Intelligence Agency plot to kill North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un.

Park Jin Hyok was part of a hacking group that conducted some of the most destructive recent online attacks in the world, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Thursday. That attack led to the release of a trove of sensitive personal information about Sony employees, including Social Security numbers, financial records, salary information, as well as embarrassing emails among top executives.

Experts at the time were sceptical about North Korean involvement in the leaks, but a Bloomberg report suggested a Sony internal report linked the attack to a group associated with Pyongyang known as DarkSeoul, which wiped out the computers of South Korean banks and broadcasters in March 2013. Authorities have said previously that North Korea was responsible for the cyber-attack.

"This was one of the most complex and longest cyberinvestigations the department has taken", said John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security.

The charges, part of a strategy by the USA government to deter future cyberattacks by naming and shaming the alleged perpetrators, will also allege that the North Korean hacker broke into the central bank of Bangladesh in 2016, according to the official. Sony was responsible for The Interview, a fictionalized assassination of North Korea's leader. "Despite efforts to hide his identity and the subjects' efforts to isolate the Chosun Expo Accounts from operational accounts that they used with aliases to carry on their hacking operations", the Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit states, "there are numerous connections between these sets of accounts".

"It's been four years since North Korea's petty little despot hacked Sony Pictures because he didn't like a movie that a free and open society produced".

The North Korean government has repeatedly denied responsibility for the hack but called it "a righteous deed".

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The criminal complaint, filed in Los Angeles, alleges that the hackers committed several attacks from 2014 until 2018.

A senior DOJ official said that while no other individuals are named in the complaint, Park allegedly worked with others in carrying out the attacks.

"The criminal conduct outlined in this case is intolerable", said Tracy Wilkison, the first assistant US attorney in Los Angeles.

The entertainment groups were targeted because of movies that depict the North Korean government unflatteringly.

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 Inc.

The Treasury Department announced sanctions on North Korea for "multiple" cyber attacks in the same day, specifically mentioning Park in its announcement of the sanctions.

"Kim Jong Un of North Korea proclaims "unwavering faith in President Trump".

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