The Department of Justice unsealed charges against three North Korean hackers in connection with the infamous 2014 cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, as first reported by The Washington Post. The hack leaked embarrassing internal documents which revealed gender-imbalanced salaries for top stars and executives and racially insensitive discourse about President Obama, among other things. Arrest warrants were issued for three people, Jon Chang Hyok, Kim Il, and Park Jin Hyok, though they are all believed to be in North Korea. The three spies are being charged with conspiring to steal and extort more than $1.3 billion in cash and cryptocurrency from banks and businesses around the world.
Park was previously indicted in 2018, which was notable for being the first time the U.S. charged a Pyongyang operative.
According to the DOJ indictment, the three allegedly worked for the Reconnaissance General Bureau, a wing of North Korean military intelligence. Prosecutors allege that the November 2014 cyberhack of Sony Pictures was ordered in retaliation for the Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy “The Interview,” which portrayed the assassination of Kim Jong Un. The accused also allegedly sent spear-phishing emails to try to hack into AMC Theatres in December 2014 in retaliation for its plans to screen the film.
They also are alleged to have targeted U.K. production company Mammoth Screen for its work on “Opposite Number,” a 10-part series about a British nuclear scientist taken prisoner in North Korea.
“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,” said acting U.S. attorney for the Central District of California Tracy L. Wilkison. These “are the acts of a criminal nation-state that has stopped at nothing to extract revenge and obtain money to prop up its regime.”
At the time of the 2014 hack, an unencrypted text document of internal workplace complaints revealed Sony Pictures Entertainment employees thought most of Sony’s movies were “mundane, formulaic” and marked by “a general blah-ness.” Multiple employees blamed the studio’s deal with Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison for its creative decline, questioning its financial and artistic merit. Sandler has since moved onto a lucrative deal with Netflix.