Gmail helped lead US to North Korean accused in Sony cyberattack

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The leader behind the North Korean cyber activities was identified in a criminal complaint as Park Jin Hyok, head of a North Korean government hacking cell that also carried out the ransomware attack known as WannaCry, and hacks against USA defense contractors, university faculty, technology companies, virtual currency exchanges, and US electric utilities.

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

The FBI's criminal complaint also said British production company Mammoth Screen had been suffered an electronic intrusion in 2014. Google, Walker wrote, "identifies bad actors, disables their accounts, warns our users about them, and shares intelligence with other companies and law enforcement officials".

The FBI alerted Lockheed to the hacking attempt and said there is no evidence any company information was compromised. Sony canceled the theatrical release of the film amid threats to moviegoers.

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

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

The North Korean hacker has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud, and another count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The Treasury Department on Thursday also is expected to announce sanctions on North Koreans tied to the malicious activities, according to the newspaper.

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Treasury said it was also sanctioning the entity Park worked for, Chosun Expo Joint Venture, also known as Korea Expo Joint Venture or KEJV, and said it was controlled by the government of North Korea.

The charges were brought against Park as the Trump administration seeks to improve relations with North Korea.

A North Korea-registered website bearing that company's name described Chosun Expo as the country's "first internet company", saying it was established in 2002 and employed 20 young graduates from institutions including Kim Il Sung University, Kimcheon Industrial University and Pyongyang Art University.

Last year, the WannaCry ransomware attack affected thousands of businesses across the globe through a computer virus that encrypted files on affected systems, including Britain's National Health Service, where nonfunctional computer systems forced the cancellation of thousands of appointments. Investigators discovered his CV and tracked his activities.

It will be the first time the United States has brought computer hacking charges against a Pyongyang operative, the Washington Post reports.

USA officials believe the Sony hack was retribution for The Interview, a comedy film that starred Seth Rogen and James Franco and centred on a plot to assassinate North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un.

On top of the money stolen, the damage caused by the hacking attacks and malware may have cost billions of dollars, according to U.S. officials.

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