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Washington blames N. Korea for massive spring cyberattack

21 December 2017, 01:08 | Myrtle Vega

Illustration by Alex Castro The Verge

Illustration by Alex Castro  The Verge

Bossert said that the United States would "publicly attribute" WannaCry to North Korea, describing the attacks as "cowardly" and "careless".

During a press briefing on Tuesday, Bossert said that even though ransomware is generally created to extract money from victims, the fact that WannaCry malware didn't actually unlock after victims paid the ransom means it wasn't really about making money.

The "wannacry" attack that began on May 12 affected people in 150 countries, and crippled more than 20 percent of hospitals in the United Kingdom.

Bossert said Microsoft and Facebook and other major tech companies acted to disable a number of North Korean cyber exploits and disrupt their operations as the North Koreans were still infecting computers across the globe.

Nevertheless, he cast accountability as an important step.

Bossert said those responsible for carrying out cyber-attacks against the U.S. would be held accountable, but he did not mention specific actions Washington was considering taking against Pyongyang. Bossert added, "Next time we're not going to get so lucky".

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"We will continue to hold accountable those who harm us", Mr. Bossert said.

"DHS plans to move beyond offering only offering voluntary assistance to more practically becoming the world leader in cyber-risk analysis and intervening directly with companies when necessary", Manfra said. "And we had to put it together in a way that allowed us to make a confident attribution". That activity started with espionage, he said, and has evolved enormously since then. "The indiscriminate use of the WannaCry ransomware demonstrates North Korean actors using their cyber programme to circumvent sanctions". The Trump administration has said that Pyongyang was "directly responsible" for the WannaCry malware attack. Computers that were affected had not been updated with security patches that would have blocked the attack.

Cristiana Brafman Kittner, principal analyst at the cybersecurity firm FireEye, said she could not confirm whether North Korea had actually stolen any virtual currencies, but said hackers linked to it had targeted "multiple exchanges" over the past six to nine months.

The U.S. government has belatedly announced that hackers tied to the government of North Korea were behind the WannaCry outbreak that began in May.

Now tell us something we didn't already know.

Bossert and Jeanette Manfra, assistant secretary of homeland security for cybersecurity and communication, said the United States, through a combination of preparation and luck, escaped the worst of the attack, as a patch to the malware was found before US companies and other interests were severely crippled.

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