USA charges North Korean man linked to Sony hack and WannaCry

Christopher Polk via Getty Images

Christopher Polk via Getty Images

The Justice Department has announced the indictment of a North Korean agent for both the theft of data and "wiper" attack on Sony Pictures in 2014 and the worldwide "WannaCry" malware attack of May, 2017.

The charges against Park Jin Hyok allege the group he was involved with were behind several attacks from 2014 until 2018, including a fraudulent transfer of $81m (£62m) from a Bangladeshi bank in 2016.

The attacks came after Pyongyang sent a letter to the United Nations, demanding that Sony not move forward with a movie comedy that portrayed the US-backed assassination of a character made to look like North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Sony cancelled the theatrical release of the film amid threats to moviegoers but released it online through YouTube and other sites.

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

"The Conspiracy attempted to and did gain access to several other banks in various countries from 2015 through 2018 using similar methods and watering hole attacks, attempting the theft of at least United States dollars 1 billion through such operations", the complaint said. The investigation is continuing. "Linking the DPRK to the Sony hacking is another fabrication targeting the country", said the unidentified diplomat. They also destroyed much of Sony's computer infrastructure.

Park, a programmer who graduated from a Pyongyang's Kim Chaek University of Technology, worked for a North Korean government-owned company called Chosun Expo Joint Venture.

USA authorities say Park Jin Hyok was part of the state-sponsored "Lazarus Group".

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North Korea has been linked to some of the most high-profile cyberattacks in recent years, and its hack on Sony Pictures Entertainment lead the Obama administration to impose economic sanctionsagainst the country's government agencies and senior officials.

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

The computer fraud charge carries a maximum of five years in prison, while the wire fraud would mean up to 20 years.

The Treasury announcement said that Park and his co-conspirators operated from "North Korea, China, and elsewhere to perpetrate these malicious activities".

It is unlikely that he will be extradited because the US has no formal relations with North Korea and the North Korean government was not notified about the charges.

President Trump, for his part, has been on cosy terms with the North Korean dictator ever since their joint photo-op at a historic summit in June of this year. "Thank you to Chairman Kim".

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