The US Justice Department has charged a North Korean hacker, Park Jin Hyok for the devastating cyberattacks that hacked Sony Pictures Entertainment and unleashed the WannaCry ransomware virus in 2017.
The US alleges that Mr. Park worked as a computer programmer for Chosun Expo Joint Venture,a wing of the North Korean military. Hyok is charged with extortion, wire fraud, and various hacking crimes that could potentially carry a prison term up to 25 years.
The criminal complaint against Hyok was filed in Los Angeles federal court in June, and unsealed this Thursday. It alleges that Mr. Park and the Joint Venture sought to “conduct multiple destructive cyber attacks around the world” in support of the North Korean government.
Timeline of Cybercrimes committed by Hyok
In 2017, the Wannacry ransomware attack affected more than 230,000 computers and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages around the world. One of the main targets affected was the UK’s National Health System, which was forced to cancel thousands of appointments after its systems were infected. The Justice Department asserts that the North Korean hacking team both developed the ransomware and propagated the attacks.
Mr. Park is also charged in connection with an $81 million (£62 million) theft from a bank in Bangladesh in 2016.
He is further accused of aiding the 2014 hack into Sony Pictures Entertainment, in which data was destroyed and internal documents were made publicly available online for anyone to download. The attack came shortly after Sony produced a comedy film ‘The Interview’, about an attempted assassination on a man who, was made to look like North Korean leader Kim Jong-un indirectly mocking him.
According to the Justice Department, Mr. Park is also charged for “numerous other attacks or intrusions on the entertainment, financial services, defence, technology, and virtual currency industries, academia, and electric utilities”.
The charges were filed four days before President Donald Trump’s meeting with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-n, to discuss ending hostility between the two countries. Prosecutors confirm that said the complaint wasn’t sealed to prevent derailing their meet in Singapore.
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