In May of this year a devastating cyber attack tore through systems usings Microsoft Windows, leaving users locked out of their computers by unknown hackers demanding ransom payments. Initially infiltrating over 200,000 computers across 150 countries, the ransomware worked by encrypting data and then demanding the infected user to pay a ransom via Bitcoin to have their now-inaccessible data restored. Given the cryptocurrency’s astronomical rise only months later, it is likely the hackers behind WannaCry would have made off with a hefty bounty had experts not found a resolution to the malware only days later.
Some speculate the total cost of the damage of the attack may approach $4 billion, while others place it in the hundreds of millions. The threat, however, went well beyond paid ransoms, of which there were 327. Hospitals in the United Kingdom found roughly 70,000 of their devices infected, forcing them to turn away patients with non-critical emergencies. Likewise, auto manufacturers Renault and Nissan were forced to suspend factory operations after their machines were infected. Russia’s postal service was heavily impacted by the attack, along with several Indian government facilities.
Thomas Bossert, the current administration’s Homeland Security Advisor, revealed in an op-ed piece featured in the Wall Street Journal that new evidence suggests North Korean operatives were behind the WannaCry attack. The article was later supported by an official statement to the public and press regarding the attack. This supports the United Kingdom’s claim made earlier this year in November, which similarly blamed the obstinate socialist state for the attack.
According to Bossert, Microsoft security personnel found evidence linking the attack directly to the North Korean government. He placed emphasis on the attack’s impact on healthcare facilities throughout the U.K., noting that the virus “put lives at risk.” He called for renewed efforts to limit North Korea’s ability to carry out cyber attacks, mirroring the United State’s current efforts to suspend the country’s growing nuclear program.
Dubbing the attack “indiscriminately reckless,” Bossert also called for harsher punishments against cyber criminals and generally advised organizations that rely on computer systems to implement stronger security measures ahead of such attacks. While a remedy for the attack was found within just four days, this was little comfort to systems already infected. With North Korea being once again classified as a state sponsor of terrorist acts just last month, it is likely their identification as the power behind WannaCry will lead to further economic sanctions against the country.