The “Wanna Cry” computer worm that affected some 300,000 computers in more than 150 countries earlier this year was an intentional cyber-attack orchestrated by Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime, U.S. and British defense officials claimed this week. The attack, which caused more than a billion dollars in damage worldwide, was reportedly a part of an effort to draw funding for the regime in the face of tightening sanctions implemented by the United States and other nations.
“The attack was widespread and cost billions, and North Korea is directly responsible,” Tom Bossert, homeland security adviser to President Donald Trump, wrote in a piece published on Monday night in the Wall Street Journal.
“North Korea has acted especially badly, largely unchecked, for more than a decade, and its malicious behavior is growing more egregious,” Bossert wrote. “WannaCry was indiscriminately reckless.”
British officials echoed this conclusion on Monday, claiming that other nations, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand have also established that the “WannaCry” worm originated in North Korea.
The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre assesses it is highly likely that North Korean actors known as the Lazarus Group were behind the WannaCry ransomware campaign – one of the most significant to hit the UK in terms of scale and disruption.” Foreign Office Minister for Cyber, Lord Ahmad said.
The “WannaCry” worm specifically affected computers that ran Windows operating systems this past May, locking users out of their PCs unless they paid a “ransom” to the attack’s originators. Although the United States was affected, some of the most significant damage caused by the attack was to Britain’s National Health Service. The European Union’s Europol called the scale of the attack “unprecedented” at the time.
In a press conference, Bossert credited Facebook and Microsoft for taking action last week to block a number of North Korean accounts that may aid in the distribution of similar attacks in the future.
“Some say that defending cyberspace is impossible and that hackers are inevitable,” Bossert said. “I disagree… Government and industry must work together, now more than ever, if we are serious.”
The United States has also released technical details regarding North Korea’s cyber-tools to other nations, hoping to help prevent further attacks from spreading as quickly and rampantly as “WannaCry.”
This is not the first time hacking and cyber-attack allegations have been levied at Kim Jong Un’s reclusive North Korean regime. In November of 2014, it is believed North Korea may have been responsible for the hack and release of a series of emails stored on Sony’s internal servers, potentially because of the impending release of a movie mocking the nation’s supreme leader.
Image courtesy of North Korea’s KCNA