Pyongyang claimed Friday it had nothing to do with the North Korean programmer charged by the U.S. with hacking Sony Pictures and spreading the WannaCry virus — and even claimed the hacker does not exist.
The FBI last week charged Park Jin Hyok with the two high-profile cyber attacks, as well as with conspiring with others to steal $81 million from a bank in Bangladesh. It says the hacker carried out the attacks on behalf of the North Korean government.
In response, North Korea called the charges a “vicious slander” Friday, and warned the issue could derail denuclearization talks between President Donald Trump and leader Kim Jong Un.
“The act of cybercrimes mentioned by the Justice Department has nothing to do with us," insisted Han Yong Song, an official at North Korea’s Institute for American Studies, according to state media.
Han added that the programmer the U.S. charged was “non-existent” and that the U.S. was the “chief culprit responsible for posing security threats in cyberspace.”
“The U.S. should seriously ponder over the negative consequences of circulating falsehoods and inciting antagonism against the DPRK that may affect the implementation of the joint statement adopted at the DPRK-US summit,” he said.
The U.S. Justice Department said Park was part of a group of hackers employed by a North Korean front company operating out of Dalian, China. It was the first time the Justice Department has brought criminal charges against a North Korean hacker.
The warning from Pyongyang comes a day after Washington announced fresh sanctions against North Korea, targeting two Russia- and China-based companies that the Treasury said were North Korean-controlled entities. The Russia-based Volasys Silver Star, China-based Yanbian Silverstar Network Technology Co. and its CEO, North Korean citizen Jong Song Hwa, have all been charged with moving illicit funding to North Korea in violation of U.S. sanctions.
"These actions are intended to stop the flow of illicit revenue to North Korea from overseas information technology workers disguising their true identities and hiding behind front companies, aliases, and third-party nationals," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement, warning IT firms worldwide to make sure they weren’t unknowingly hiring North Korean tech workers.
South Korea’s foreign ministry said the move was in keeping with Washington’s strategy to maintain pressure on North Korea through sanctions to work towards denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, while also attempting dialogue.
Cover image: Jin Hyok Park, a suspected North Korean hacker in the 2014 cyber attack on Sony Corp, is seen in this FBI photo released in Washington, DC, U.S., September 6, 2018. (FBI/Handout)