US Charges N. Korean Man in Sony Hack, Other Attacks

U.S. prosecutors on Thursday announced charges against a North Korean computer programmer in connection with a series of cyberattacks in recent years, including the 2014 hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment and a 2016 attack on the Bangladesh central bank.

Prosecutors identified the hacker as Park Jin Hyok, a programmer who worked for Chosun Expo, an alleged front company for the North Korean government. Park and a group of other unidentified hackers are accused of engaging in a “wide-ranging, multi-year conspiracy” to conduct computer intrusions and wire fraud around the world while operating out of North Korea, China and other countries.

Park, who faces charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit computer related fraud, remains at large. The FBI issued a wanted poster for him. The Treasury Department announced sanctions against both Park and Chosun Expo in connection with the conspiracy.

The Sony cyberattack was allegedly carried out in retaliation for the release of “The Interview,” a movie that depicted a fictional assassination plot against North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. During the intrusion, the hackers stole movies and other confidential information, and rendered thousands of computers inoperable, according to a criminal complaint unsealed on Thursday.

In the attack on Bangladesh Bank, described as the largest cybertheft from a financial institution, the hackers stole $81 million, according to the complaint. The conspirators allegedly carried out hacks targeting “many more financial services” victims in the United States as well as countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and South America in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The hackers were responsible for the ransomware used in the 2017 global cyberattack known as WannaCry, according to the complaint.

The charges come as the Trump administration seeks a denuclarization agreement with the North Korean government.

In recent years, U.S. officials have singled out North Korea among countries that pose growing cyberthreats to the United States. In its annual Worldwide Threat Assessment report released in February, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Russia, China, Iran and North Korea “will pose the greatest cyberthreats to the United States during the next year.”

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