North Korean operatives are the "world's leading bank robbers," federal prosecutors said Wednesday, announcing charges against three computer programmers in the regime's "General Reconnaissance Bureau." Jon Chang Hyok, Kim Il, and Park Jin Hyok are accused of taking part in cyberattacks that stole and extorted $1.3 billion in cash and cryptocurrency from banks and companies worldwide, reports Reuters. Prosecutors say the motive was financial, with the funds going to the regime, but revenge was sometimes also a factor, especially in the 2014 cyberattack on Sony after The Interview, which mocked leader Kim Jong Un and showed him being assassinated, CNBC reports. When the movie came out, Pyongyang called it an "act of war."
Prosecutors said the North Korean hackers were also behind the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attacks and developed "multiple malicious cryptocurrency applications." The indictment also states that defense firms and the Pentagon were targets of the unit's "spear-phishing campaigns." "North Korea’s operatives, using keyboards rather than guns, stealing digital wallets of cryptocurrency instead of sacks of cash, are the world’s leading bank robbers," said John Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security, per Politico. Prosecutors on Wednesday also announced a plea deal involving Ghaleb Alaumary, a Canadian-American citizen accused of laundering millions of dollars in stolen funds, the AP reports. (Read more North Korea stories.)