US authorities blame North Korea for WannaCry cyberattack

19 Dec 2017

Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. Image: Gregor2016S/Shutterstock

The WannaCry cyberattack was unprecedented in scale and wreaked havoc around the globe.

Looking back at 2017, there were numerous cybersecurity incidents, but none as widespread or damaging as the WannaCry cyberattack.

Banks, hospitals and other organisations were crippled by the incident earlier this year.

In a piece published in yesterday’s (18 December) The Wall Street Journal, White House homeland security adviser Thomas Bossert said that the US believes North Korea orchestrated the attack.

Bossert wrote: “After careful investigation, the US today publicly attributes the massive WannaCry cyberattack to North Korea.” He said the country was “directly responsible” for the attack, and added that the US has evidence to back up this claim.

Investigations by both the UK and Microsoft have reached similar conclusions, added Bossert.

According to Reuters, a hacking entity known as the Lazarus Group, working on behalf of the North Korean government, was responsible for the attack. This group is also believed to be behind the infamous hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014.

The North Korean government has repeatedly denied any involvement with WannaCry and has decried allegations as a smear campaign.

‘WannaCry was indiscriminately reckless’

WannaCry devastated hospitals in the UK, disrupting infrastructure, causing patients to miss appointments and ambulances to be rerouted.

FedEx’s networks were also adversely affected due to the attack.

Windows computers running old software hit by WannaCry had their files locked, and users were asked to pay a ransom in order to see their information safely restored.

Bossert said: “What we see is a continued pattern of North Korea misbehaving, whether destructive cyberattacks, hacking for financial gain or targeting infrastructure around the globe.”

According to The Washington Post, Democratic officials in the US have criticised the Trump administration’s response to North Korea’s activities, saying that the US government has handled the news differently in comparison to the Russian online interference revelations.

Bossert said that North Korea must be “held accountable” and stressed that the US would continue to use a “maximum pressure strategy” to counteract any cyberattacks the country could be planning.

“North Korea has acted especially badly, largely unchecked, for more than a decade, and its malicious behaviour is growing more egregious. WannaCry was indiscriminately reckless,” he said.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects