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DOJ to Bring Charges Against North Korean Citizen for Sony Hack

The Justice Department plans to announce charges against a North Korean computer programmer alleged to have conspired to conduct multiple hacking attacks, including that of Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014.

Park Jin Hook was part of a government-sponsored hacking team known as the “Lazarus Group,” federal prosecutors said. He worked for a North Korean government front company, Chosun Expo Joint Venture, to support the government’s cyber actions, according to the charges.

The Sony attack was devastating to the studio, and wiped from computers scores of confidential emails that were later posted by Wikileaks. At the time, authorities said that they traced the source of the attack to North Korea. The studio had been preparing to release Seth Rogen and James Franco’s movie “The Interview,” which depicted the assassination of Kim Jong Un. The North Korean regime condemned the movie but denied involvement in the attack.

Prosecutors said that the hacking attack was in retaliation for the release of the movie, and that the hackers “gained access to SPE’s network by sending malware to SPE employees, and then stole confidential data, threatened SPE executives and employees, and damaged thousands of computers.”

The DOJ also said that they targeted other entities in the industry, including  a movie theater chain and a U.K. company that was producing a fictional series involving a British nuclear scientist taken prisoner in North Korea.

The Justice Department said that the cyber operation also created malware used in the 2017 WannaCry 2.0 global ransomware attack and the 2016 theft of $81 million from Bangladesh Bank. Prosecutors also said that there were “numerous other attacks or intrusions on the entertainment, financial services, defense, technology, and virtual currency industries, academia, and electric utilities.”

“We stand with our partners to name the North Korean government as the force behind this destructive global cyber campaign,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “This group’s actions are particularly egregious as they targeted public and private industries worldwide – stealing millions of dollars, threatening to suppress free speech, and crippling hospital systems.”

Park is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that the indictment
“points to the need for a clearly thought-out and articulated strategy for deterring and punishing state-sponsored cyberattacks.”

The charges were filed on June 8 but unsealed on Thursday. The announcement came on the same day that President Donald Trump tweeted about the support he has received from Kim. He wrote, “Kim Jong Un of North Korea proclaims ‘unwavering faith in President Trump.’ Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will get it done together!”

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