Tuesday, 18 September, 2018


White House Adviser Says North Korea Behind Big Ransomware Attack

White House Adviser Says North Korea Behind Big Ransomware Attack White House Adviser Says North Korea Behind Big Ransomware Attack
Bennie Garza | 20 December, 2017, 03:56

US Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert told a briefing at the White House on Tuesday that after intensive investigation, the US was publicly attributing the attack to North Korea.

However, the Trump administration appears to be taking an aggressive stance on curbing Pyongyang's hacking activities.

Commenting on the naming of North Korea, the chief technology officer of American security vendor McAfee, Steve Grobman said: "The (US) administration is in a unique position to make this attribution assessment. The U.S. must lead this effort, rallying allies and responsible tech companies throughout the free world to increase the security and resilience of the internet". "President Trump is handling the intelligence assessments regarding North Korea and Russian Federation completely differently, staging an elaborate media roll-out to press on sanctions against North Korea while at the same time discrediting the assessment by these very same intelligence agencies that the Kremlin interfered with our election", said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., ranking member on the committee on oversight and government reform. "So we don't have a lot of room left here to apply pressure to change their behavior".

While ransomware is often used to raise money, that did not seem to be North Korea's main goal.

The U.S. accusation came at a time of high tension with North Korea over its nuclear weapons and missile programs. "They shut down accounts the North Korean regime attackers used to launch attacks and patched systems", Bossert said.

"I think at this point, some of the benefit that comes from this attribution is letting them know we're going to move to stop their behavior", he added.

"The President has made very clear that on North Korea for example, now is not the time to talk", McMaster responded. "Microsoft traced the attack to cyber affiliates of the North Korean Government, and others in the security community have contributed their analysis".

The US government has assessed that a hacking entity known as Lazarus Group, which works on behalf of the North Korean government, was behind the virus.

"North Korea has acted especially badly, largely unchecked, for more than a decade, and its malicious behavior is growing more egregious", Bossert wrote. It is also suspected of targeting South Korean banks and the operator of the nation's nuclear power plants. It gave them advice on how to improve their security.

Bossert said Microsoft and foreign governments, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Japan, confirmed the USA finding of responsibility for WannaCry.

While WannaCry raised relatively little money for its perpetrators - few paid up after it proved that paying the ransom didn't unlock affected computers - its impact was vast.

In a blog post, Microsoft President Brad Smith said the company last week disrupted malware that the Lazarus Group relied upon, cleaned customers' infected computers and "disabled accounts being used to pursue cyber attacks". Government offices in Russia, Spain and other countries were disrupted, as were Asian universities, Germany's national railway and global companies such as automakers Nissan and Renault.

The attack would nearly certainly have spread further had United Kingdom security researcher Marcus Hutchins not discovered a hardcoded domain that served as a kill-switch within hours of the outbreak. He is now awaiting trial in the USA on charges of allegedly conspiring to distribute unrelated malware.

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