Published: Fri, September 07, 2018
Tech | By Constance Martin

In a First, US to Charge North Korean Spy

In a First, US to Charge North Korean Spy

The widespread 2014 attack on Sony, conducted by a group calling itself the Guardians of Peace, exposed a number of embarrassing emails between producers and top executives at the movie studio.

The Obama administration officially blamed North Korea for the attack and imposed sanctions against the country, but the Park charges are the first brought over the intrusion. Asked if any of Park's attacks were launched from China by North Korea, a Justice Department official said, "there's nothing in the complaint alleged on that".

"The scale and scope of the cyber-crimes alleged by the complaint is staggering and offensive to all who respect the rule of law and the cyber norms accepted by responsible nations", said John Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.

The target: Park Jin Hyok is accused of being part of the Lazarus Group, a hacker collective that does the bidding of North Korea's military intelligence agency.

North Korea has always been suspected - and accused - of having carried out the Sony hack and being behind the WannaCry ransomware but today those accusations were made formal. The depiction caused officials to complain to the United Nations and resulted in the state media of the isolated nation warning of "merciless retaliation".

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.

Treasury said it was also sanctioning the entity Park worked for, Chosun Expo Joint Venture, also known as Korea Expo Joint Venture or KEJV, and said it was controlled by the government of North Korea.

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Meanwhile, a North Korean official denied the country was responsible for cyber attacks on Sony in an interview with Voice of America.

The criminal complaint, filed in Los Angeles, alleges that the hackers committed several attacks from 2014 until 2018.

The Associated Press reported that a North Korean who is believed to have operated out of China will be among those charged. In recent years the department has charged hackers from China, Iran and Russian Federation in hopes of publicly shaming other countries for sponsoring cyberattacks on USA corporations.

"The criminal conduct outlined in this case is intolerable", said Tracy Wilkison, the first assistant US attorney in Los Angeles.

In 2014, the Obama administration charged five Chinese military hackers with several digital break-ins at USA companies, and past year, the Justice Department charged Russian hackers with an intrusion at Yahoo Inc.

A month later, United States officials blamed North Korea for the attack, an accusation backed by several organisations, including one linked to the South Korean government.

It is unlikely that he will be extradited because the US has no formal relations with North Korea and the North Korean government was not notified about the charges.

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