Three men are said to have stolen more than 1.3 billion dollars through attacks on Sony Pictures and banks, among others – for the regime in Pyongyang.
The US Department of Justice has charged three North Koreans with a worldwide series of hacking attacks in which more than $ 1.3 billion are reported to have been looted. According to the indictment published on Wednesday, the programmers between the ages of 27 and 36 were among other things involved in the 2014 attack on Sony Pictures in connection with the film “The Interview” and the development of the Wannacry 2.0 ransomware.
Attacks on banks in Southeast Asia, Mexico and Africa as well as theft of crypto currencies are also charged with them. The three defendants are said to work for the North Korean government. The charges were originally filed in December 2020 and have now been made public.
The aim of the attacks was to steal money to finance the regime in Pyongyang or to seek revenge, the investigators said. The suspects are held responsible for several attacks on the entertainment industry, among other things.
The most prominent example is the attack on the Sony Pictures film studio, which paralyzed the studio’s entire computer network for weeks in November 2014. In addition, e-mails from several years were stolen. The cyber attack was seen as an act of revenge for the film satire “The Interview” about a fictitious attack on North Korea’s ruler Kim Jong Un.
For several years, the suspects are also said to have tried to steal money from banks in Vietnam, Bangladesh, Malta and Mexico, among others, according to the allegations. These attacks are said to have involved more than $ 1.2 billion.
John Demers, who is responsible for national security affairs in the Justice Department, made it clear on Wednesday that illegal hacking activities from North Korea had different goals than those from Russia, China or Iran, which among other things aimed at the theft of intellectual property. “What we see almost exclusively in North Korea is the attempt to raise money through illegal cyber activities,” Demers said. Given the sanctions and the economic situation, the country needs money.
North Korea is internationally isolated because of its nuclear program. Harsh sanctions hamper economic development. “North Korea’s agents using keyboards instead of guns and stealing digital wallets with cryptocurrency instead of bags of cash have become the world’s leading bank robbers,” Demers said. North Korea is one of the “most sophisticated national cyber actors in the world”.
An internal report by the United Nations recently found that North Korea also finances its nuclear weapons program with hacking activities, among other things. These are to be carried out directly by the North Korean secret service.