The Trump administration has officially blamed North Korea for the WannaCry ransomware attack that crippled computers across the globe earlier this year.
In an article for the Wall Street Journal Monday evening, Tom Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, stated Pyongyang was “directly responsible.”
“[T]he U.S. today publicly attributes the massive ‘WannaCry’ cyberattack to North Korea,” Bossert said.
The hackers, believed to be North Korea’s “Lazarus Group,” utilized a leaked NSA zero-day exploit to enable the ransomware to rapidly spread and infect countless computer systems in more than 150 nations.
“It encrypted and rendered useless hundreds of thousands of computers in hospitals, schools, businesses and homes,” Bossert said.
Some researchers believe the malware was inadvertently deployed while the North Korean hackers were writing the code, resulting in files remaining decrypted regardless of payment.
“While victims received ransom demands, paying did not unlock their computers,” Bossert said.
The Trump administration’s announcement follows attribution by other state entities incuding Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which publicly blamed North Korea for the WannaCry outbreak in October.
“We do not make this allegation lightly. It is based on evidence,” Bossert added. “We are not alone with our findings, either.”
While the U.S. government has not revealed what evidence it has gathered, Google researcher Neel Mehta noted in May that an early version of WannaCry shared code with a February 2015 sample from the Lazarus Group.
“North Korea has acted especially badly, largely unchecked, for more than a decade, and its malicious behavior is growing more egregious,” Bossert said. “WannaCry was indiscriminately reckless.”
Homeland Security held a press briefing Tuesday officially condemning Pyongyang.
Bossert concluded by stating the Trump administration would use “maximum pressure” to minimize North Korea’s ability to carry out malicious action against the U.S. and its allies.
“North Korea, it continues to threaten America, Europe and the rest of the world—and not just with its nuclear aspirations,” Bossert said. “It is increasingly using cyberattacks to fund its reckless behavior and cause disruption across the world.”
“Mr. Trump has already pulled many levers of pressure to address North Korea’s unacceptable nuclear and missile developments, and we will continue to use our maximum pressure strategy to curb Pyongyang’s ability to mount attacks, cyber or otherwise.”