The United States has officially blamed North Korea for the worldwide ‘WannaCry’ cyberattacks in May this year. The accusation came in an unusual way, with a column in The Wall Street Journal by White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert.
Bossert wrote that ‘after careful investigation, the U.S. today publicly attributes the massive “WannaCry” cyberattack to North Korea.’
‘We do not make this allegation lightly. It is based on evidence. We are not alone with our findings, either. Other governments and private companies agree. The United Kingdom attributes the attack to North Korea, and Microsoft traced the attack to cyber affiliates of the North Korean government.’
Bossert also wrote that by targeting the UK’s healthcare system during the attack, North Korea had ‘put lives at risk.’
The WannaCry worm was a ransomware that attacked up to 300,000 Windows computers in 150 countries. Users found their computers locked and received demands to pay $300 in the cryptocurrency bitcoin to regain control of their machines and data.
Some paid up, giving the creators of WannaCry approximately $140,000 in bitcoin. But the hackers haven’t cashed the money yet, probably because their bitcoin stash is traceable.
While the hackers failed to make money from the attack, they ended up causing extensive damage that may have cost anything from several hundred millions to billions of dollars.
Suspicion of North Korean involvement began soon after the WannaCry attack. In June, The Washington Post reported that America’s National Security Agency (NSA) had ‘linked the North Korean government to the creation of the WannaCry computer worm’ though the ‘the assessment is not conclusive’.
Attribution of cyberattacks is notoriously difficult, which is one of their attractions to states that pursue them. North Korea has been blamed for several other cyberattacks, including electronic bank heists in the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as one in Bangladesh where the hackers stole at least $81 million. The so-called ‘Lazarus Group’, which is linked to Pyongyang, is thought to be behind these attacks as well as attempts to steal bitcoin by targeting traders.
Most bizarrely, North Korea is also accused of attacking the computers of US-based studio Sony Pictures in 2014 after it released a comedy movie depicting a violent revolution in North Korea.
Kim Jong-Un’s regime is believed to be have a dedicated army of hackers. His country is also virtually invulnerable to retaliatory cyberattacks, because Internet access is extremely limited internally.