USA charges North Korean hacker in WannaCry, Sony cyber attacks

Christopher Polk via Getty Images

Christopher Polk via Getty Images

A computer programmer working for the North Korean government was charged with devastating cyberattacks that hacked Sony Pictures Entertainment and unleashed the WannaCry ransomware virus that infected computers in 150 countries and crippled parts of the British health care system, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

The attacks, the indictment said, were conducted from North Korea, China and other countries. The U.S. Department of Treasury also announced sanctions on the same individual.

A United States government official familiar the criminal case said authorities will charge a North Korean believed to have operated from China.

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.

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"We will not allow North Korea to undermine global cybersecurity to advance its interests and generate illicit revenues in violation of our sanctions", Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTurkey's Erdoğan: USA behaving like "wild wolves" amid sanctions Senate delays Amazon hearing pending Postal Service review: report Trump moves toward public report on Postal Service overhaul by year's end MORE said in a statement. "Some of the operational accounts were used in the name "Kim Hyon Woo" (or variations of that name), an alias that the subjects used in connection with the targeting of and cyber-attacks on SPE, Bangladesh Bank, and other victims".

It is the first time the Justice Department has brought criminal charges against a hacker said to be from North Korea. That comedy film depicted a graphic assassination of Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, and was denounced by the country.

The FBI said Park, allegedly working for a front company for the North Korean state, also conspired to steal $81 million (£63 million) from a Bangladeshi bank.

The Treasury announcement said that Park and his co-conspirators operated from "North Korea, China, and elsewhere to perpetrate these malicious activities". The company, affiliated with North Korean military intelligence, does a mix of state-sponsored hacking and innocuous paid coding work, according to the complaint.

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The hackers also targeted technology and virtual currency industries, as well as academia and electric utilities, authorities said.

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

WannaCry affected hundreds of thousands of computers in more than 150 countries past year and the Sony Pictures hack resulted in leaked films, scripts, employee information, internal emails and company passwords. "We will get it done together!"

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