United States charges regime-linked North Korean in WannaCry, Sony hacks

Blanche Robertson
September 7, 2018

The charges and sanctions singled out Park in some of the most notorious and damaging hacks in recent years, which had already been unofficially pinned on North Korea.

The FBI has charged a North Korean computer programmer with a series of high-profile cyber attacks including the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack and the hacking of Sony Pictures in 2014.

The FBI had long suspected North Korea was also behind last year's WannaCry cyberattack, which used malware to scramble data on hundreds of thousands of computers at hospitals, factories, government agencies, banks and other businesses across the globe.

The Treasury announced financial sanctions on Park and a government-controlled company he worked at for more than a decade, Chosun Expo Joint Venture, also known as Korea Expo Joint Venture.

The department also sanctioned the agency, stating that all property and interests of both Chosun Expo and Park within the US or in the possession of USA citizens must be frozen.

The charges were announced as President Trump and his administration negotiations with North Korea to end its nuclear program.

Mnuchin added the U.S.is committed to "holding the regime accountable for its cyberattacks and other crimes and destabilizing activities".

It is the first time the Justice Department has brought criminal charges against a hacker said to be from North Korea.

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It details how the group used multiple Gmail accounts and went to some lengths to cover their tracks but left a series of electronic breadcrumbs that ultimately led to the hackers and an email account that North Korean government officials were also seen to be using, making the connection to the government.

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

In 2014, United States officials said unnamed North Korean hackers were responsible for a major cyber intrusion into Sony, which resulted in leaked internal documents and data being destroyed.

The attack most notably locked up the systems of Britain's National Health Service, causing significant damage.

The Treasury Department also added Park Jin Hyok's name to their sanction list, which prohibits banks that do business in the US from providing accounts to him or Chosun Expo. The U.S. believes he was working for a North Korean-sponsored hacking organization.

After an impasse of several weeks, earlier Thursday US President Donald Trump indicated in a tweet that talks were moving forward.

It was not immediately clear what effect they might have on those diplomatic efforts - whether, for example, North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un might walk away. "We will get it done together!"

A senior Justice Department official said a criminal investigation into Park and his accomplices was still ongoing.

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