WASHINGTON – The Justice Department on Wednesday publicly accused against three North Korean intelligence officials accused of hacking the scores of companies and financial institutions to thwart US sanctions, fund improper funding legal to the Korean regime and control US corporations considered enemies of the state, including Sony Pictures Entertainment.
The allegations are the government’s latest attempt to show that North Korea was engaged in a blatant, years-long effort to sabotage and attack organizations around the world and steal millions of dollars. la even as the United States and its allies step up their efforts to contain the country and its nuclear ambitions.
One of the officials, Park Jin-hyok, a member of North Korea’s military intelligence agency, was accused by the Justice Department in 2018 for participating in the Sony hack that paralyzed the company and the attack. WannaCry’s network attack on the UK’s National Health Service, and an attack on the Bangladesh central bank and financial institutions around the world.
Based on that investigation, the Justice Department indicted Mr. Park and two other North Korean agents, Jon Chang-hyok and Kim Il, for charges related to those attacks, as well as charges that they tried to steal more than $ 1.2 billion.
John C. Demers, head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said in a statement: “Put simply, the regime has become a criminal organization, harnessing its resources. state to steal hundreds of millions of dollars ”.
Prosecutors declined to say how much money the hackers actually made.
Separately, federal prosecutors accused Ghaleb Alaumary, 37, of both US and Canadian nationalities, of organizing a network of people in those countries to launder the millions of dollars that the North Korean government collects. be from hackers. Mr. Alaumary pleaded guilty.
Wednesday’s broad indictment backs the findings in a report released by Recorded Future, a cybersecurity research group this month, concluding that North Korea has significantly expanded its ability to use the internet to financial support for its government even though the United States and its allies have cut oil supplies and imposed strict sanctions on the country.
The report also shows that North Korea has significantly improved its ability to steal cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, and that it now transfers half of its internet traffic to Russia.
The government accused Mr. Jon and Mr. Kim of working with Mr. Park to carry out illegal hacking plots from North Korea, China and Russia starting in early 2014, when they attacked Sony in retaliation for the decision. production and distribution of the company’s film. , “The Interview,” describes a plot to assassinate Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea.
The attack was catastrophic for the studio, wiping out 70% of its computers capabilities, erasing data on about half of PCs and personal servers, and paralyzing operations. The private emails released as part of the attack embarrassed executives and contributed to the resignation of the studio president, Amy Pascal.
Following the Sony attack, three men sent phishing emails filled with malware to Bank of Bangladesh employees and eventually gained access to the bank’s computer, which was connected. with the global banking liaison system.
The hackers then directed the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to transfer money from the Bank of Bangladesh to accounts they controlled. They only stole $ 81 million because an official at the reserve bank found that the word “platform” was misspelled, scrutinized the transaction and halted the transfer of another $ 900 million, according to government documents in the Park lawsuit.
The three men also used the crippled WannaCry malware to infiltrate and paralyze the UK’s healthcare system’s computer networks. And they try to break into the computer networks of the US defense contractors.
Those conspiracies are largely known, as they make up the bulk of the charges against Mr. Park, announced three years ago.
But federal prosecutors also revealed new allegations that the hackers withdrew money from ATMs, resulting in BankIslami Pakistan alone having $ 6.1 million stolen; that they used WannaCry to blackmail victims after it was used against the British medical system; that they created malware related to the digital currency that allowed them to gain access to the victim’s computer; and they stole tens of millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrencies, including more than $ 111 million from companies in Slovenia, Indonesia and New York.
In addition to defense contractors, the group is also trying to penetrate energy companies, aerospace companies, technology companies, and the Department of Defense and State.
Mr Demers said during a press conference that it was unlikely any man living in North Korea would be arrested. But the Justice Department has made public the identity and charges against them, he said, to show the public the severity of threats from countries like North Korea. The ministry also wants to demonstrate that it can identify the criminals behind the cyber attacks and warn those hackers and the countries supporting them, he said.
“If the option here is to remain silent while we monitor countries that engage in malicious network activity, violate standards or accuse these cases,” Demers said in a statement. the choice is obvious. “We will charge them.”