photo : William Moon

The US has officially stated this week that they hold North Korea responsible for the WannaCry malware attack. White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert told The Pavlovic Today that he hopes North Korea will decide to “stop behaving badly online.”

In a press briefing on Tuesday, White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert announced that Pyongyang will be held accountable for the massive WannaCry cyberattack that occurred in May of this year.

North Korea’s Response to Accusations

When asked how he believes North Korea will respond to the US’ announcement, Bossert told The Pavlovic Today that he hopes North Korea will decide to “stop behaving badly online.”

“I’m not naïve,” Bossert continued, “and I think they’ll probably continue to deny and to continue to believe that they’re beyond repercussions and beyond consequences. But I think, at some point, they’re going to realize that this President and this country, and the allies that he’s rallied unanimously around this cause, will bring them to change their behavior.”

“And if they don’t, this President is going to act on behalf of the United States and its national security interests, and not the national security interests of another country. I think he’s been clear on that, and I’m glad he’s our President in that regard,” Bossert said.

Since the malware attack occurred in May of this year, North Korea has repeatedly denied responsibility for WannaCry and has referred to other cyber attack allegations, such as the 2016 Bangladesh Central Bank cyber heist and 2014 Sony Pictures confidential data leaking, as smear campaigns against the regime.

A spokesperson for North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded on Thursday to the US’ announcement through the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the state news agency of North Korea responsible for all news in North Korea.

Warning that the US is now inciting global confrontation against North Korea by forcibly linking it to the latest cyber attack incident, the spokesman called the US “a source of all social evils and a state of global cyber-crimes,” and accused it of “unreasonably accusing the DPRK without any forensic evidence.”

“This cannot be construed otherwise than an expression of its inveterate repugnance towards the DPRK,” he added.

“As we have clearly stated on several occasions, we have nothing to do with the cyber attack and we do not feel a need to respond, on a case-by-case basis, to such absurd allegations of the U.S.,” the spokesman said, according to KNCA.

South Korean news sources have reported on the US’ announcement earlier this week, but its government has yet to issue an official statement regarding the allegations.

Background on the WannaCry Malware Attack

WannaCry was one of the fastest-spreading and crippling cyber attacks to-date, affecting computers from across 150 countries.

In the UK, the cyber attack wreaked havoc on its computerized health care system, interfering with surgeries and emergency services and forcing thousands of patients to reschedule appointments.

The WannaCry cyber attack used a type of malicious software from cryptovirology, known as ransomware, that perpetually blocks access to the files on its target’s computer unless a ransom is paid, usually in a digital currency like bitcoin.

However, in the case of WannaCry, even when the ransom was paid, access was not restored to the computer’s files. Though the main point of a software like ransomware is usually to extract money from its victims, Bossert said in a press briefing on Tuesday that he believes that the fact that WannaCry didn’t unlock encrypted files after victims paid ransom fees means the attack wasn’t about making money.

“This was a reckless attack; it was meant to cause havoc and destruction. The money was an ancillary side benefit, and I don’t think they got a lot of it,” Bossert said.

At Tuesday’s briefing, Bossert officially stated that after careful investigation, “the United States is publicly attributing the massive WannaCry cyberattack to North Korea.”

“We do not make this allegation lightly,” Bossert said. “We do so with evidence, and we do so with partners.”

The partners Bossert refers to include the governments of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Japan and private commercial companies such as Microsoft and others in the security community.

Bossert stated that in response to Wannacry, President Trump has rallied partners and responsible tech companies together around the world in order to increase the security and resilience of the Internet.

“North Korea has acted especially badly, largely unchecked, for more than a decade,” Bossert continued. “Its malicious behavior is growing more egregious, and stopping that malicious behavior stops with this step of accountability.”

Yeji is covering the White House.

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