In a First, US to Charge North Korean Spy

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Activity from Park's real-name Chosun Expo account and numerous accounts tied to Lazarus Group activity originated from the same Internet addresses in North Korea. Sony canceled the theatrical release of the film amid threats to moviegoers.

Park, who is believed to be in North Korea, conspired to conduct a series of attacks including the creation of the malware used in the 2017 WannaCry 2.0 global ransomware attack; the 2016 theft of United States dollars 81 million from Bangladesh Bank; the 2014 attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment and numerous other attacks or intrusions on entertainment, financial services, defence, technology and virtual currency industries.

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.

In December 2014, Sony was left reeling by a cyber-attack on its film-making studio that exposed five of its upcoming movies, including the big-budget musical remake Annie - released online to file-sharing sites by a group calling itself Guardians of Peace. He said the hacking group has "shifted their sights" to cryptocurrency in the past year.

The hackers were responsible for the ransomware used in the 2017 global cyberattack known as WannaCry, according to the complaint.

"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.

Regarding the WannaCry ransomeware attack that disrupted computer networks around the world, the complaint states that forensic analysis linked that attack to hackers who carried out the Sony and Bangladesh Bank attacks and the targeting of US defense contractors.

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A senior DOJ official said that while no other individuals are named in the complaint, Park allegedly worked with others in carrying out the attacks.

The Justice Department said the conspirators also commit wire fraud on behalf of the cash-strapped North Korean government. "Linking the DPRK to the Sony hacking is another fabrication targeting the country", said the unidentified diplomat.

The hackers again started by sending spear-phishing messages to employees of the bank, as well as email or social media addresses associated with that bank.

The hack of the central bank of Bangladesh saw at least US$81 million stolen and transferred between a number of accounts in the Philippines and elsewhere, rendering most of it unrecoverable.

"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 Assistant Attorney General Demers.

The 34-year-old worked "on behalf of the government of North Korea or the Workers' Party of Korea", according to USA authorities.

The North Korean hackers also targeted defense contractor Lockheed Martin in an apparent bid to gain information about the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, anti-missile system that was slated for deployment in South Korea.

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