US Charges North Korean for WannaCry, Sony Picture Hacks

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USA officials believed the Sony hack was retribution for "The Interview", a comedy film that starred Seth Rogen and James Franco and centered on a plot to assassinate North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un.

WannaCry affected hundreds of thousands of computers in more than 150 countries a year ago and the Sony Pictures hack resulted in leaked films, scripts, employee information, internal emails and company passwords.

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 Treasury Department also added Park Jin Hyok's name to their sanction list, which prohibits banks that do business in the USA from providing accounts to him or Chosun Expo.

The FBI said at the time it had recovered evidence connecting North Korea to the attack and others in South Korea.

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

The cyber-theft of a huge amount of files from Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014 saw the company lose control of private communications between top executives, personal data of thousands of employees and customers, and scripts and information on upcoming films.

Park, who faces charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit computer related fraud, remains at large. Authorities have said previously that North Korea was responsible for the cyber-attack.

The scale and scope of alleged crimes is "staggering and offensive", Assistant Attorney General Demers said in a statement, while First Assistant United States Attorney Tracy Wilkison said the attacks "caused unprecedented economic damage and disruption to businesses in the United States and around the globe".

WannaCry 2.0 was "ransomware" - a form of malicious software - which spread virulently around the world in May 2017, infecting some 300,000 computers in 150 countries.

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Regarding the movie The Interview, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said the North Koreans stole a copy of film but instead of releasing it on the internet, the copay was "rendered inoperable" in a bid to prevent release. By July 2016, internet archival records show, the company dropped the reference to North Korea from its home page.

"The department has charged, arrested and imprisoned hackers working for the governments of China, Russia and Iran". Officials insist that the timing of the unsealing of the criminal complaint has nothing to do with the June summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump, or with the push to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

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

Trump thanked Kim on Twitter and said, "We will get it done together!"

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