North Korea engaged in a long effort to hack into U.S. companies and steal from financial institutions around the globe, the Justice Department charged on Thursday in a criminal complaint that detailed how hackers caused hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of damage to the global economy, the New York Times reports. Only one North Korean, Park Jin-hyok, was charged with computer fraud and wire fraud in the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment. The complaint described hackers for North Korea’s main intelligence agency, operating out of China and other Asian nations, who crippled Britain’s health care system in last year’s WannaCry attack and stole $81 million from the Bangladeshi central bank save for a spelling error — before turning to vulnerable institutions from Vietnam to South Africa.
North Korea seemed primarily motivated by its continuing need for cash, as other countries have refused to do business with Pyongyang, and a desire to control U.S. corporate behavior through fear. WannaCry presented the possibility that the North also wanted to sow chaos. The Times called the complaint “the most specific public accounting yet of North Korea’s cyberattacks against other countries.” The Justice Department has now brought charges against state actors from North Korea, China, Iran and Russia, the United States’ most formidable cyberfoes. The legal complaints have been seen as a key tool in deterring attacks; the Trump administration also imposed sanctions on Park as part of a broad punishment. As officials tried to convey that North Korea would pay a high price for hacking U.S. targets, President Trump undercut their effort with a friendly tweet about the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, hours before the complaint was announced.