US charges North Korean hacker with WannaCry and Sony cyberattacks
The US Government has charged a North Korean man in the 2017 global WannaCry ransomware cyberattack and the 2014 cyberassault on Sony, reported Reuters.
The charge, part of a strategy by the US Government to deter future cyber attacks by naming and shaming the alleged perpetrators, also alleges that hackers broke into the central bank of Bangladesh in 2016, according to an official.
Park Jin Hyok worked as part of a team of hackers, also known as the Lazarus Group, to try to breach multiple other US businesses, according to the complaint. In 2016 and 2017, Park’s targets included defense contractor Lockheed Martin although complaint said there was no evidence Lockheed was breached.
The US Treasury Department has imposed sanctions against Park and the Chinese-based front company he worked for, Chosun Expo.
In 2014, US 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 attacks came after the North Korean Government sent a letter to the United Nations, demanding that Sony not progress with a movie comedy that portrayed the US-backed assassination of a character made to look like North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The FBI said at the time it had recovered evidence connecting North Korea to the attack and others in South Korea.
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 Theatres. The movie theater chain in some cases delayed or canceled screenings of The Interview nationwide, Variety at the time reported. The complaint said there was no evidence AMC Theatres 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 the National Health Service, where non-functioning computer systems forced the cancellation of thousands of appointments.
John Demers, the Assistant Attorney General of the National Security Division, said that this marked the first time the US Justice Department had 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. 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 US 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 8 June, just days before a historic summit in Singapore between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.