U.S. charges three North Koreans in hacking spree

The Department of Justice on Wednesday announced that the U.S. has charged three North Korean computer programmers with a massive hacking spree aimed at stealing more than $1.3 billion in money and cryptocurrency, affecting companies from banks to Hollywood movie studios.

The indictment alleges that Jon Chang Hyok, Kim Il, and Park Jin Hyok, stole money while working for North Korea's military intelligence services.

Park had previously been charged in a complaint unsealed in 2018.

Acting U.S. Attorney General Tracy Wilkinson for the Central District of California:

“The hackers charged in the indictment were members of units known in the cyber security community as Lascaris Group and Advanced Persistent Threat 38. While the cybersecurity community recognizes these two as different North Korean groups, the criminal investigation has revealed that these groups were part of a single conspiracy that worked under the North Korean military to destroy computer systems and to steal money and information, all for revenge and to finance the criminal regime."

The Justice Department said the hackers were responsible for a wide range of criminal activity and high-profile intrusions, including a retaliatory 2014 attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment for producing "The Interview," a movie which depicted the assassination of North Korea's leader.

The Justice Department also alleged that the trio participated in the creation of the destructive WannaCry 2.0 ransomware, which hit Britain's National Health Service in 2017, and breaking into banks across South and Southeast Asia, Mexico, and Africa, among other crimes.

The overall amount of money stolen by the hackers is unclear because in some cases the thefts were either halted or reversed.

Kristi Johnson, the FBI assistant director in charge for the Los Angeles Field Office, told reporters that the three alleged hackers were believed to be in North Korea.

Officials alleged they had been stationed at times in various other countries, including China and Russia.