U.S. finds North Korea ‘directly responsible’ for WannaCry ransomware attacks

The U.S. has publicly accused North Korea of being behind the destructive WannaCry ransomware attacks that crippled IT systems at several organisations across the globe earlier this year.

White House homeland security adviser Thomas Bossert said the U.S. will use its maximum pressure strategy to curb Pyongyang’s ability to mount cyber attacks.

Back in November, Home Office Minister Ben Wallace became the first British official to publicly state that North Korea was behind the WannaCry ransomware attacks in May that impacted several NHS trusts and other organisations.

'This attack, we believe quite strongly that it came from a foreign state. North Korea was the state that we believe was involved this worldwide attack. It is widely believed in the community and across a number of countries that North Korea had taken this role,' he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

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Prior to Wallace's accusation, several security researchers had found similarities between WannaCry codes and those used by the Lazarus Group, a prominent North Korean hacker group which, many suspected, was state-sponsored and which was accused of being involved in a Bangladesh bank heist as well as an attack on Sony Pictures in 2014.

North Korea did not take Wallace's accusation kindly and lashed out at Britain, terming the accusation as one of it's 'wicked attempts' to corner the country further.

'This is an act beyond the limit of our tolerance and it makes us question the real purpose behind the UK's move,' said a spokesman for the North Korea-Europe Association.

'The moves of the UK government to doggedly associate the DPRK with the cyberattack cannot be interpreted in any other way than a wicked attempt to lure the international community into harboring greater mistrust of the DPRK,' he added.

As it stands, Britain is no longer alone in accusing North Korea of sponsoring/orchestrating the WannaCry ransomware attacks in May. Thomas Bossert, a White House homeland security adviser, has said that the United States 'publicly attributes the massive ‘WannaCry’ cyberattack to North Korea'. He added that the U.S. reached this conclusion after completing a careful investigation.

In an article published in The Wall Street Journal, Bossert said that the U.S. would continue to use its maximum pressure strategy to curb Pyongyang’s ability to mount cyber attacks and that the private sector must ensure that cyber-attacks mounted by North Korean hackers aren't successful.

Despite public accusations from the likes of Britain and the United States and rising international pressure, North Korea is unlikely to scale down its cyber-warfare capabilities.

"As sanctions bite further and North Korea becomes more desperate for foreign currency, they will get more aggressive and continue to come after the finance sector. They’re after our money,” said Robert Hannigan, a former head of GCHQ, to The Times.

He warned that the country is now increasing its cyber-warfare activities and may soon become a "premier league" player in cyber-warfare. It is doing so by collaborating with cyber criminals who may not be based in North Korea but have the tools in place to conduct massive cyber warfare on global organisations.

“Cyber is just a new and very productive way of doing it. It’s bound to grow — they have found new tools of doing it through social media, through the tech companies. We’re going to see more of the same and more sophisticated attacks. More of the disinformation, more stealing of money, more disruption of systems,” he added.