The US government has announced it now officially considers North Korea to be behind the Wannacry bitcoin ransomware cyber attack which caused billions of dollars in damages earlier this year.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, The US President’s Homeland Security Advisor Thomas P. Bossert stated that the administration now “publicly attributes the massive “Wannacry” cyberattack to North Korea.” He added that “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.”
Wannacry infiltrated Windows computers, encrypted data and demanded ransom in bitcoin to return control of the files. It is estimated to have hit over 300,000 computers in 150 countries around the world, including banks, telecom companies, and other vital economic infrastructure systems. Microsoft security researchers recently blamed North Korea for the attack, using tools stolen from the US National Security Agency (NSA).
“It encrypted and rendered useless hundreds of thousands of computers in hospitals, schools, businesses and homes. While victims received ransom demands, paying did not unlock their computers. It was cowardly, costly and careless. The attack was widespread and cost billions, and North Korea is directly responsible,” Bossert wrote in his Op-ed.
Army of Bitcoin Hackers
Ransomware isn’t the only form of cyber attack allegedly deployed by the state-sponsored hackers of North Korea. Security researchers from the US, UK, and South Korea have all pointed a finger at the country in recent months as the main source of hacking attacks against popular South Korean bitcoin exchanges, stealing data and cryptocurrency.
Beyond just the monetary gains, which can be substantial for the poverty-stricken North Koreans, holding bitcoin can help the pariah nation bypass Western economic sanctions crippling its economy. Cyber attacks in general are also a winning asymmetric warfare strategy for North Korea, allowing it to harass, harm, and appear equal to its much stronger adversaries south of the 38th Parallel, Japan, and the US.
Is bitcoin ransomware keeping North Korea’s economy above water or has the revenue gained from this been overstated? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.
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