WannaCry cyber attack: North Korea was ‘directly responsible’

The malware that infected over 300,000 computers in 150 computers is being attributed to Pyongyang

The US is set on publicly blaming Pyongyang for carrying out an unprecedented cyber attack, which caused widespread destruction to around the world earlier this year.

North Korea was “directly responsible” for the WannaCry attack that crippled banks, companies and hospitals in May, according to a senior White House official. The malware infected over 300,000 computers in 150 different countries.

“The attack was widespread and cost billions, and North Korea was directly responsible,” said Tom Bossert, homeland security advisor to US president Donald Trump in an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal.

According to Bossert, those responsible for the cyber attacks against the US would be held accountable, but did not mention any specifics regarding the actions Washington was considering taking against the rogue state.

News reports quoted a senior Trump administration official as saying that the US had come to the conclusion, “with a very high level of confidence” that the Lazarus Group, a hacking organisation that works on behalf of Pyongyang, was behind the WannaCry attack.

Tom Bossert (Photo: the Japan Times)
Tom Bossert (Photo: the Japan Times)

The public shaming of the state, which has not been confirmed by the White House, is designed to hold the North accountable for its actions and “erode and undercut their ability to launch attacks,” the official said.

Bossert said that the US would “publicly attribute” WannaCry to North Korea, describing the attacks as “cowardly” and “careless.”

“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,” said Bossert.

Bossert called on governments and businesses to come together to reduce the risks of cyber attacks and for harsher punishments.

“Malicious hackers belong in prison, and totalitarian governments should pay a price for their actions,” he said.

While the North is believed to run a cyber warfare operation, which has traditionally targeted the South, the regime has repeatedly denied WannaCry allegations.

The Lazarus Group is also thought to be behind the 2014 cyber attack against Sony, which resulted in the leak of several unreleased films. The attack forced the company to cancel the release of The Interview, a comedy about two reporters who were hired to assassinate Kim Jong-un.