White House blames North Korea for 'Wannacry' ransomware attack

Donald Trump

The May 12 global cyber attack affected critical sectors, including health care, "potentially putting lives at risk", said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a move not yet public. The announcement came in the form of an op-ed in The Wall Street Journalauthored by President Donald Trump's Homeland Security Advisor, Thomas Bossert.

In May, a ransomware attack known as WannaCry infected computers across the world, encrypting people's files and charging owners hundreds of dollars to recover access to those files. Bossert also says hackers must continue to receive harsh punishments for cybercrimes and corporations likely to be victims of such attacks should step up security and proactively take measures to fight back against malicious bad actors and foreign governments. A spinoff group, Andariel, targets South Korean financial institutions specifically. "The United Kingdom attributes the attack to North Korea, and Microsoft traced the attack to cyber affiliates of the North Korean government", wrote Bossert. "And so we don't have a lot of room left here to apply pressure to change their behavior".

While others - such as security firm Symantec and the British government - have already placed the blame on North Korea, the USA has just now come forward with the same conclusion.

"We make it way to easy for attackers by operating independently", she told reporters.

North Korea has been developing cyber capabilities as trade sanctions and a debilitated domestic economy make it hard to invest in conventional military capabilities, said Tom Uren, a visiting fellow at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's International Cyber Policy Centre. He also noted that Microsoft did make efforts to disrupt activities by North Korean hackers last week, but Bossert didn't elaborate. "It gives them something else to bring to the table".

Looking ahead, Bessert writes that the US will take steps to curtail North Korea's "ability to mount attacks, cyber or otherwise". Kim Jong Un's regime denied any connection. Until now, the USA government has not publicly stated as much.

He noted that Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Japan have agreed with the U.S. assessment and have joined Washington in denouncing North Korea. New Jersey and DE were the states affected the most.

The hackers drew worldwide headlines in 2014 when they allegedly broke into Sony Corp.'s movie business as it was preparing to release "The Interview", a Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy about meeting the North Korean leader.

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