How US tracked North Korean hackers behind WannaCry virus

DOJ to announce charges against North Koreans for Sony hack, Wannacry attack

US prosecutors on Thursday announced charges against a North Korean computer programmer in connection with a series of cyberattacks in recent years, including the 2014 hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment and a 2016 attack on the Bangladesh central bank.

The Justice Department announced the charges against Pak Jin-hyok, a member of the North Korean spy agency, on Thursday afternoon.

Park Jin Hyok, who is believed to be in North Korea, conspired to conduct a series of attacks that also stole $81 million from a bank in Bangladesh, according to charges unsealed in Los Angeles federal court following years of investigation.

Although the USA previously blamed North Korea for the both the WannaCry and Sony Picture cyber attacks, this is the first time federal investigators have publicly named a suspect in the crimes. The studio eventually posted it on YouTube, a remarkable turn of events for a major wide release in a time before Netflix streaming Will Smith and Michael Bay movies. Sony was responsible for The Interview, a fictionalized assassination of North Korea's leader.

The North Koreans also attempted similar unsuccessful online bank thefts between 2015 and 2018, worth an estimated $1 billion.

The WannaCry cyberattack took place in 2017 when the ransomware infected about 300,000 computers.

Park, whose age is not known, is charged with two counts alleging conspiracies to commit computer and wire fraud - crimes that could carry a prison term up to 25 years.

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Prosecutors said Mr Park was believed to be in North Korea.

The 172-page criminal complaint published by the US Department of Justice provides an unprecedented insight into the workings of one of the most notorious hacking groups on the planet, but also shows how their most successful attacks were at least in part down to a blizzard of fake - phishing - emails.

The company is affiliated with the North Korean government hacking unit called Lab 110.

The move against the North Korean hacker came as the U.S. seeks to get traction in negotiations with Pyongyang over halting its nuclear weapons programme. "We'll continue to identify and illuminate those responsible for malicious cyberattacks and intrusions, no matter who or where they are".

The sophisticated operation involved the use of false websites for Facebook and Google to fool unsuspecting computer users into downloading malware that gave the North Koreans access.

It's been a year and half since he launched a ransomware attack that hit hundreds of thousands of computers across the globe.

Experts at the time were sceptical about North Korean involvement in the leaks, but a Bloomberg report suggested a Sony internal report linked the attack to a group associated with Pyongyang known as DarkSeoul, which wiped out the computers of South Korean banks and broadcasters in March 2013.

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