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North Korean National Charged In Sony Pictures Hacking, Other Cyberattacks

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A North Korean national has been charged in connection with the 2014 cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, a hack that leaked thousands of studio emails and financial documents, federal officials announced Thursday.

Park Jin Hyok, also known as Jin Hyok Park and Pak Jin Hek, is part of a state-sponsored hacking team known to the private sector as the "Lazarus Group" and worked for a North Korean government front company, Chosun Expo Joint Venture, to support the socialist country's malicious cyber actions, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

North Korea hacking arrest
FBI photo of Park Jin Hyok (source: CBS)

The criminal complaint against Hyok was filed on June 8 in Los Angeles federal court -- four days before President Donald Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un -- and unsealed Thursday. Besides the 2014 cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, Hyok has also been implicated in the 2017 WannaCry 2.0 global ransomware attack; the 2016 theft of $81 million from Bangladesh Bank; and other attacks on financial services, defense, technology, and virtual currency industries, academia, and electric utilities.

Hyok allegedly worked with the Korea Expo Joint Venture for more than a decade. Prosecutors said the firm had offices in China and North Korea and was affiliated with "Lab 110," an arm of North Korean military intelligence.

The scale and scope of alleged crimes is "staggering and offensive," Assistant Attorney General Demers said in a statement, while First Assistant United States Attorney Tracy Wilkison said the attacks "caused unprecedented economic damage and disruption to businesses in the United States and around the globe."

"These weren't just attacks against computers. These were attacks against freedom of speech," Wilkison said at a downtown Los Angeles news conference.

The Sony hacking attack in 2014 was attributed at the time to a group calling itself "Guardians of Peace." The hackers demanded that Sony cancel the release of "The Interview," starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, and threatened violence against theaters that showed the film, prompting many cinemas to cancel engagements of the movie. Sony eventually opted not to release the film in theaters, releasing it instead via digital downloads.

The hackers made public thousands of emails of Sony executives, including some embarrassing and racially insensitive exchanges that ultimately led to the resignation of studio head Amy Pascal.

Park is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, which carries a maximum five-year prison sentence, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, with a max sentence of 20 years in prison.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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