DOJ Charges North Korean Hacker for Sony Breach

An alleged member of the North Korean government-backed hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment has been charged with "conspiracy to conduct multiple destructive cyber attacks around the world resulting in damage to massive amounts of computer hardware, and the extensive loss of data, money and other resources." The 2014 Sony Pictures hack was just one of multiple attacks identified in the charges.

The Trump Administration brought out the big guns, with the announcement of the charges made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, and others.

Related: Sony Hack Demonstrates Cybersecurity Nightmare

The charges were filed against Park Jin Hyok and what Justice described as a "North Korean government front company, Chosun Expo Joint Venture (a/k/a Korea Expo Joint Venture[KEJV])." Park was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, which carries a five-year maximum prison sentence, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud (a maximum 20 years in prison).

“We stand with our partners to name the North Korean government as the force behind this destructive global cyber campaign. This group’s actions are particularly egregious as they targeted public and private industries worldwide – stealing millions of dollars, threatening to suppress free speech," said Wray.

Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee saluted the announcement. “This indictment is the result of years of hard work by the FBI and the Department of Justice, and it is an important step in making clear to our adversaries that these kinds of criminal activities are unacceptable," he said. "It also points to the need for a clearly thought-out and articulated strategy for deterring and punishing state-sponsored cyberattacks.”

Other attacks cited in the charges included "the creation of the malware used in the 2017 WannaCry 2.0 global ransomware attack" and "the 2016 theft of $81 million from Bangladesh Bank."

The 2014 hack included private emails with talent, including a detailed string of emails with Paul Reiser about Mad About You digital rights and a contract back-and-forth with Shark Tank judge Mark Cuban.

Arguably the "juiciest" exchange among execs concerned the potential sale of a controlling stake in Crackle that would have valued the streaming service at $200 million.

Production activity on Sony shows was also hampered as execs returned to pads and pencils to communicate while they determined whether their electronic communications were still at risk.

Sony had urged media outlets to destroy the leaked documents.

The Sony attack may have been a retaliation for Sony's The Interview, about the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.