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Washington accuses North Korean spy of hacking Sony

Sept 08,2018
The U.S. Justice Department said Park Jin-hyok worked with a team of hackers to breach multiple U.S. businesses. [YONHAP]
WASHINGTON - The U.S. government charged and sanctioned a North Korean man on Thursday for orchestrating a global ransomware attack in 2017 and cyberassault on Sony Pictures in 2014, U.S. officials said.

The charges, part of a strategy by the U.S. government to deter future cyberattacks by naming and shaming the alleged perpetrators, also alleged that the North Korean hacker broke into the central bank of Bangladesh in 2016, according to a criminal complaint.

Park Jin-hyok worked as part of a team of hackers, also known as the Lazarus Group, to try to breach multiple other U.S. businesses, according to the complaint. In 2016 and 2017, Park’s targets included defense contractor Lockheed Martin. The complaint said there was no evidence Lockheed was breached.

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

The North Korean mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In 2014, U.S. officials said unnamed North Korean hackers were responsible for a major cyberintrusion into Sony, which resulted in leaked internal documents and data being destroyed.

The attacks came after Pyongyang sent a letter to the United Nations, demanding that Sony not move forward with the movie “The Interview,” which portrayed the U.S.-backed assassination of a character made to look like North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Park used a series of online personas for social media platforms, including on Facebook and Twitter, to send malicious links to individuals involved in the production of “The Interview,” the complaint said. The malicious links carried North Korean-controlled malware.

In November 2014, Park allegedly launched the same style social media-focused attack against employees of AMC. The multiplex chain in some cases delayed or canceled screenings of “The Interview” nationwide, Variety reported at the time. The complaint said there was no evidence that AMC was breached.

Last year, the WannaCry ransomware attack affected thousands of businesses across the globe through a computer virus that encrypted files on affected systems, including Britain’s National Health Service, where nonfunctional computer systems forced the cancellation of thousands of appointments.

John Demers, the assistant attorney general of the national security division in the U.S. Justice Department, said on Thursday that this marks the first time the department has formally charged a hacker in connection with cyber crimes “sponsored” by the North Korean government.

“The department has charged, arrested and imprisoned hackers working for the governments of China, Russia and Iran,” he said. “Today, we add the North Korean regime to our list, completing frankly four out of four of our principle adversaries in cyberspace.”

A senior Justice Department official said a criminal investigation into Park and his accomplices was still ongoing. There has been no communication between the U.S. and North Korean government about a possible extradition, the official said.

No North Korean government officials were referenced in the complaint by name, though it does allege the government sponsored the attacks.

The complaint was filed under seal on June 8, just days before a historic summit in Singapore between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Reuters



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