North Korean hackers charged with attack on Sony after comedy mocked Kim Jong-un

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Three North Koreans have been charged with carrying out a massive hacking spree that plundered millions of dollars.

Jon Chang Hyok, 31, Kim Il, 27, and Park Jin Hyok, 36, allegedly conducted the cyberattacks while working for North Korea's military intelligence services.

They are accused of creating and deploying “multiple malicious cryptocurrency applications, and to develop and fraudulently market a blockchain platform,” the Department of Justice said.

Another Canadian-American citizen has already pleaded guilty to laundering some of the alleged hackers' money.

The charges relate to an attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in November 2014.

It was in retaliation for the release of The Interview, a Hollywood comedy starring James Franco and Seth Rogen which depicted the assassination of Kim Jong-un.

The thieves also allegedly created the destructive WannaCry 2.0 ransomware in May 2017.

It crippled a raft of banks and hospitals across the world, affecting the NHS in the UK.

Last December, former US President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said: “The attack was widespread and cost billions, and North Korea is directly responsible.”

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Between 2015 and 2019, they tried to steal more than $1.2 billion [£866 million] from banks in Vietnam, Bangladesh, Taiwan, Mexico, Malta and Africa, the DOJ claims.

It is alleged the North Koreans also targeted hundreds of cryptocurrency companies and pilfered tens of millions of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency.

Acting US Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said: “The scope of the criminal conduct by the North Korean hackers was extensive and long-running, and the range of crimes they have committed is staggering.

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“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.”

Assistant Attorney General John Demers, of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, added: “As laid out in today’s indictment, North Korea’s operatives, using keyboards rather than masks and guns, are the world’s leading 21st century nation-state bank robbers.

“The department will continue to confront malicious nation state cyber activity with our unique tools and work with our fellow agencies and the family of norms abiding nations to do the same.”

The full list of charges can be read here.

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