Korean Man in Sony Hack, Other Attacks

Minnie Murray
September 7, 2018

The leader behind the North Korean cyber activities was identified in a criminal complaint as Park Jin Hyok, head of a North Korean government hacking cell that also carried out the ransomware attack known as WannaCry, and hacks against USA defense contractors, university faculty, technology companies, virtual currency exchanges, and US electric utilities.

The Justice Department alleged that Park was a member of a government-sponsored hacking team known to the private sector as the "Lazarus Group", and worked for North Korean government front company Chosun Expo Joint Venture (Korea Expo Joint Venture or KEJV) to support the North Korean government's "malicious" cyber actions.

USA defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin, were among the alleged targets, though the document says the attempts to infiltrate Lockheed's computer systems were not successful.

Britain's National Cyber Crime Unit said it had obtained critical evidence which was able to link the NHS attack to others already being investigated in the US.

The Treasury Department also announced Thursday that it is sanctioning Park, "for having engaged in significant activities undermining cybersecurity through the use of computer networks or systems against targets outside of North Korea" on behalf of the government. The hackers demanded that Sony cancel the release of "The Interview", starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, and threatened violence against theaters that showed the film, prompting many cinemas to cancel engagements of the movie.

The charges and sanctions came amid President Donald Trump's efforts to negotiate with Kim Jong Un's regime to give up its nuclear arsenal.

Last December the North Korean government called allegations that it was behind the ransomware "absurd" and a "grave political provocation".

In 2016, hackers breached the Bangladesh Bank's servers and made off with $81 million.

"These were attacks against freedom of speech", Wilkison said at a downtown Los Angeles news conference. In other cases the hackers created email accounts in the names of recruiters or high profile execs at one company (like a United States defense contractor), and then used the accounts to send bogus recruitment messages to employees of competitor companies.

Park, who faces charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit computer related fraud, remains at large.

The WannaCry ransomware virus infected computers in 150 countries and crippled parts of the British health care system.

Investigators were able to track down the hackers by tracing their origin to a segment of some 1,024 internet protocol addresses assigned to North Korea.

The massive Sony attack was seen at the time as representing a new, aggressive type of hacking operation because it crippled computers, deleted data and released embarrassing internal emails in retaliation for the company's film, "The Interview", a comedy about a Central Intelligence Agency plot to kill Kim.

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