U.S. announces North Korea was behind cyberattack in May
In May 2017, a devastating ransomware attack authorized by an unknown entity infected thousands of computers and systems across the globe, causing massive panic and confusion. Over 164 countries were affected by this attack, including the United States. The attack was called WannaCry. This cyberattack worked its way into Microsoft operating systems by encrypting the data on the hard drive, then holding it for ransom and demanding a payment in Bitcoin cryptocurrency in order for the data to be decrypted. While the attack was stopped a few days after its discovery due to emergency software patches issued by Microsoft, the damage had already been done. The attack resulted in damages ranging from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars. After much deliberation from cyber experts in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, it was formally asserted that North Korea was the propagator behind the attacks.
Thomas P Bossert, Homeland Security Advisor to the Trump administration, said in an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal, “We do not make this allegation lightly. It is based on evidence. We are not alone with our findings, either.” He went on to add, “This was a reckless attack and it was meant to cause havoc and destruction. I think, at this point, North Korea has demonstrated that they want to hold the entire world at risk, whether it be through its nuclear program or cyberattacks.”
This brash behavior by the oppressive regime in North Korea puts the United States in a precarious position, as it leaves us with few options on how to retaliate as a nation. For the past year, the U.S. has tried to place sanctions on this isolated country in order to convince the leadership to change their behavior. So far, it has been unsuccessful. Even so, it is important to publicly call North Korea out, as it rings clear around the globe that this erratic and dangerous behavior will not be tolerated in the free world.
This attack clearly displays the danger of how rogue nations can use cyberattacks as a means of serious social upheaval and damage. Relatively low-cost attacks like this can lead to a high impact that results in damaging the digital infastructure of powerful nations like the United States. A U.S. official who remained annonymous told the Washington Post that this, “demonstrates the importance of basic cyber hygiene, including keeping systems patched and up to date, as well as the need for strong cooperation between public and private sectors to share information, prevent and mitigate cyberthreats.”
While the public is fully aware of North Korea’s efforts in pursuing nuclear weapon technology due to constant media coverage, their cyberattack capabilities have become just as dangerous. Security expert Dmitri Alperovitch warns, “They are a very capable actor that is known to have developed 0-day (previously unknown) exploits and their own unique malware code,” As such, they pose a major threat to organizations globally.” With tensions already high with North Korea’s recently missile testing, the U.S. and other nations around the globe will need to stay vigilant.