North Korean charged in crippling Sony hack, WannaCry virus

07 September, 2018, 19:18 | Author: Sue Mclaughlin
  • DOJ to announce charges against North Koreans for Sony hack, Wannacry attack

Clues found in free email services such as Gmail helped U.S. investigators track down a North Korean hacker charged Thursday with crimes stemming from the 2014 attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment and the 2017 "WannaCry" ransomware operation.

"OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) designated the North Korean computer programmer Park Jin Hyok for having engaged in significant activities undermining cyber security through the use of computer networks or systems against targets outside of North Korea on behalf to the Government of North Korea or the Workers' Party of Korea", an official statement by the US Treasury Department said.

The indictment alleges that Park took part in these attacks, as well as attacks on including USA defense contractors, university faculty, technology companies, virtual currency exchanges, and US electric utilities, as well as attempted financial institution attacks over the past four years.

The indictment, initially reported by ABC News and the Washington Post, is the first direct set of charges against an individual associated with the North Korean government.

The criminal complaint against Mr Park was accompanied by sanctions against him. The complaint said: "as with the subjects' cyber-attack on [Sony Pictures], the subjects were successful in causing recipients at Bangladesh Bank to download the payload from their spear-phishing emails". Sony canceled the theatrical release of the film amid threats to moviegoers but released it online through YouTube and other sites. "Members of the conspiracy are responsible for some of the most damaging and most well known cyber intrusions in history including the cyberattack targeting Sony Pictures, the cyber heist of Bangladesh Bank and creating the WannaCry ransomware".

Park, who USA officials believe is now in North Korea, faces charges that include conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Park and Chosun Expo, also known as Korean Expo Joint Venture, were also targeted with financial sanctions by the U.S. Treasury Department.

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Prosecutors said Mr Park was believed to be in North Korea.

The North Korean government was not notified about the charges, which are likely to be a source of irritation.

On top of the money stolen, the damage caused by the hacking attacks and malware may have cost billions of dollars, according to USA officials.

The WannaCry ransomware virus infected computers in 150 countries and crippled parts of the British health care system.

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.

Investigators were able to track down the hackers by tracing their origin to a segment of some 1,024 internet protocol addresses assigned to North Korea.

The hackers used the same aliases and accounts from the Sony attack when they sent spear-phishing emails to several USA defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin, and others in South Korea, officials said.

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