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WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is preparing to announce criminal charges in connection with the hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014, a U.S. government official familiar with the case said Thursday.
Authorities are charging a North Korean who is believed to have operated out of China, according to the official, who wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter before the department’s announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity.
A Sony spokeswoman declined comment.
The U.S. government has previously said that North Korea was responsible for the cyberattack, which resulted in the disclosure of tens of thousands of leaked emails and other materials.
The FBI has said it had detected communications between computer internet addresses known to be operated by North Korea and hacking tools left behind at the crime scene, which officials said contained subtle clues linking those tools to the North Korean government.
The Justice Department in recent years has charged hackers from China, Iran and Russia in hopes of publicly shaming other countries for sponsoring cyberattacks on U.S. corporations.
In 2014, for instance, the Obama administration charged five Chinese military hackers with a series of digital break-ins at American companies, and last year, the Justice Department charged Russian hackers with an intrusion at Yahoo Inc.
U.S. officials believed the Sony hack was retribution for “The Interview,” a comedy film that starred Seth Rogen and James Franco and centered on a plot to assassinate North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un. Sony canceled the release of the film amid threats to moviegoers.
The charges come at a sensitive time for relations between the U.S. and North Korea. President Donald Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June for a historic summit, after which Trump claimed that there was “no longer a Nuclear Threat (sic).” The two countries have since traded tough words over plans to denuclearize.
Kim and Trump, however, appear to remain on good terms. Kim on Thursday appeared to praise Trump and said he was still optimistic for negotiations despite diplomatic setbacks.
In response, Trump tweeted his thanks and that the two of them “will get it done together!”
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.