Feb 17, 2021 - Technology

North Korean hackers charged in cyberattack conspiracies

Photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

Photo: Pyeongyang Press Corps/Pool/Getty Images

Federal investigators levied new charges Wednesday against three North Korean computer programmers accused of wide-ranging cyberattacks, including the 2014 Sony Pictures hack and schemes to extort more than $1.3 billion of money and cryptocurrency.

The big picture: The charges expand on the FBI's 2018 case on the cyberattacks targeting Sony Pictures and the WannaCry 2.0 ransomware attack.

Driving the news: The Justice Department outlined a range of criminal cyber activities it says were undertaken by operatives working for a North Korean military intelligence agency. The attacks include:

  • Cyberattacks on the entertainment industry, including the attack on Sony Pictures in retaliation for the release of "The Interview," a satire that made fun of North Korea's dictatorship.
  • Attempts to steal more than $1.2 billion from banks in multiple countries by hacking their computer networks.
  • Developing malicious cryptocurrency applications — including Celas Trade Pro, WorldBit-Bot, iCryptoFx, Union Crypto Trader, Kupay Wallet, CoinGo Trade, Dorusio, CryptoNeuro Trader, and Ants2Whale — to give the North Korean hackers backdoors into victims’ computers.

What they're saying: "The scope of these crimes by the North Korean hackers are staggering," said Tracy L. Wilkison, acting U.S. attorney for the central district of California. "The conduct detailed in the indictment are the acts of a criminal nation-state that has stopped at nothing to extract revenge and obtain money to prop up its regime."

Go deeper: North Korea's hackers are robbing banks

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