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Justice Dept. announces charges against North Korean hacker in Sony attack

The FBI released this photo of Park Jin Hyok of North Korea, who is wanted in connection with the hack of Sony Pictures.

FBI

Last Updated Sep 6, 2018 6:24 PM EDT

The Department of Justice announced charges Thursday against a North Korean government-sponsored hacker over the 2014 Sony Pictures hack.

In a criminal complaint filed earlier this year but only made public Thursday, the DOJ alleges Park Jin Hyok was a member of a hacking group known as the "Lazarus Group" and sponsored by the North Korean government, the DOJ said in a news release. The complaint alleges Park, working for a North Korean government front company best known as Korea Expo Joint Venture, or KEJV, worked to support the North Korean government's malicious cyber activities. 

Specifically, Park has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The Treasury Department announced sanctions on North Korea for "multiple" cyber attacks in the same day, specifically mentioning Park in its announcement of the sanctions. 

"The complaint charges members of this North Korean-based conspiracy with being responsible for cyberattacks that caused unprecedented economic damage and disruption to businesses in the United States and around the globe," First Assistant United States Attorney Tracy Wilkison said in a statement. "...These charges send a message that we will track down malicious actors no matter how or where they hide. We will continue to pursue justice for those responsible for the huge monetary losses and attempting to compromise the national security of the United States."

An arrest warrant was issued for Park in June and his last known whereabouts were in North Korea. Officials insist that the timing of the unsealing of the criminal complaint has nothing to do with the June summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump, or with the push to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. 

The widespread 2014 attack on Sony, conducted by a group calling itself the Guardians of Peace, exposed a number of embarrassing emails between producers and top executives at the movie studio. At the time, CBS News reported that sources said the FBI had definitively traced the attack back to Kim's regime. 

Hours before the anticipated announcement Thursday, Mr. Trump thanked Kim Jong Un for offering glowing words about Mr. Trump.

"Kim Jong Un of North Korea proclaims 'unwavering faith in President Trump.' Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will get it done together!" Mr. Trump tweeted. 

Reporting contributed by Andres Triay, Paula Reid, Jeff Pegues and Kathryn Watson