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US Holds North Korean programmer responsible for WannaCry and Bangladesh heist

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Park Jin Hyok is an ethical hacker who worked for the North Korean government has been charged in the US with a number of massive cyber attacks throughout the world, including the WannaCry ransomware that had infected 150 countries’ computer and $81 million Bangladesh Bank heist.

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A criminal complaint was filed on June 8, but it was made public on Thursday, September 6. The Department of Justice has alleged that the programmer or ethical hacker Park Jin Hyok was a part of ‘a wide-ranging multi-year conspiracy’ led by the North Korean government and carried out multiple cyber attacks through a front organisation.

Park has also been booked for conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse.  He was a member of North Korean government sponsored hacking team known to the private sector as the ‘Lazarus Group’, and had worked for North Korean government front company Chosun Expo Joint Venture (Korea Expo Joint Venture or KEJV) to support the North Korean government’s malicious cyber actions.

Park, is said to be in North Korea, conspired to conduct a number of attacks including the creation of the malware used in the 2017 WannaCry 2.0, global ransomware attack, $81 million bank heist and 2014 attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment and numerous other attacks or intrusions on entertainment, financial services, defence, technology and virtual currency industries.

The WannaCry ransomware virus had infected computers in almost 150 countries and crippled several parts of the British health care system.

The complaint states, “The Conspiracy attempted to and did gain access to several other banks in various countries from 2015 through 2018 using similar methods and watering hole attacks, attempting the theft of at least USD 1 billion through such operations.”

In addition to these criminal charges, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Park and KEJV under Executive Order 13722 based on the malicious cyber and cyber-enabled activity outlined in the criminal complaint.

“This group’s actions are particularly egregious as they targeted public and private industries worldwide – stealing millions of dollars, threatening to suppress free speech, and crippling hospital systems,” FBI Director Christopher Wray quoted as saying to PTI.

Assistant Attorney General Demers told PTI, “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.”  

“The FBI also alleged that the North Korean government, through a state-sponsored group, robbed a central bank and citizens of other nations, retaliated against free speech in order to chill it half a world away, and created disruptive malware that indiscriminately affected victims in more than 150 other countries, causing hundreds of millions if not billions, of dollars’ worth of damage,” Demers told PTI.

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