The US charged a North Korean programmer on Thursday (Sep 6) with some of the most dramatic global hacking cases of recent years, alleging they were carried out on behalf of the regime in Pyongyang.
Park Jin Hyok, who is believed to be in North Korea, conspired with others to conduct a series of attacks that also stole $81 million from a bank in Bangladesh, according to the Justice Department's criminal complaint. Park was also cited by United States officials as part of a conspiracy that conducted the fraudulent transfer of $81 million from the central bank of Bangladesh in February 2016.
And then countless other attempts were made against Western targets, including hospitals, universities, utility companies, defense contractors, Bitcoin currencies and others. Prosecutors said the complaint was sealed for a variety of reasons and wasn't done to prevent derailing the Singapore talks.
The attack took place before the release of the comedy film The Interview, which depicts a fictional Central Intelligence Agency plot to kill North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un.
The North Koreans also attempted similar unsuccessful online bank thefts between 2015 and 2018, worth an estimated $1 billion. "In general, the hackers intend their victims to open the spear-phishing messages while using their employers' computer systems, thus breaching the employers' network security", said the complaint.
Park is charged with conspiracy and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
In addition, the North Korean hackers also tried to use spear phishing in their attempts to penetrate U.S. defense contractors, at least one USA university, academic researchers, United States energy companies, and virtual currency exchanges.
It is unlikely Park will be extradited since the USA has no formal relations with North Korea.
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The Treasury announced financial sanctions on Park and a government-controlled company he worked at for more than a decade, Chosun Expo Joint Venture, also known as Korea Expo Joint Venture.
The attacks are alleged to have been carried out from North Korea, China and other countries.
"These charges show that we will not tire in our efforts to identify those who believe they can hide behind a computer and cause havoc across the world, regardless of their motivation or status", he said.
The criminal complaint against Hyok was filed on June 8 in Los Angeles federal court - four days before President Donald Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un - and unsealed Thursday.
It's been a year and half since he launched a ransomware attack that hit hundreds of thousands of computers across the globe. Investigators discovered his CV and tracked his activities.
In 2014, U.S. 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.