The parliamentary defence committee warned Thursday that the UK is more likely to face further cyber-attacks from North Korea, but also said that the UK would not stand aside and can provide significant offensive cyber-capabilities to tackle the threat.
The defence committee’s latest report has talked about North Korea’s nuclear and cyber capabilities, its willingness to use nuclear weapons or to sell such technologies, and the UK’s ability to respond to future nuclear or cyber offensives launched by North Korea.
“Kim Jong-un is rational, can be dissuaded”
“We judge North Korea to have a relatively low threshold for use of offensive cyber capabilities. For the most part, North Korean cyber-attacks have targeted South Korea. But as international sanctions tighten, the country may place more emphasis on the money-making opportunities that these capabilities afford, thereby subverting sanctions.
“Any actions of governments (including the UK) or corporate entities perceived by the regime to be insulting to the regime could lead to the use of offensive cyber,” said the Ministry of Defence, possibly indicating that North Korea’s threshold is relatively low.
While the defence committee noted that it is “far more likely that the UK will continue to suffer from reckless North Korean cyber-attacks, such as Wannacry”, on account of the regime’s “utter lack of concern about who gets hurt by such attacks”, it also expressed hope that even though Kim Jong-un is ruthless like other Communist dictators before him, he is rational and can be dissuaded by means of a policy of deterrence and containment.
“The nuclear and cyber threats posed by North Korea are typical of the new and intensifying dangers confronting the UK. Yet, new threats require extra investment—not the usual process of simply balancing the books by sacrificing conventional capabilities which are still needed to deal with ongoing older threats,” concluded the chair of the defence committee.
Bad blood between North Korea & the West
In November last year, for the first time since the WannaCry ransomware attack occurred, Home Office Minister Ben Wallace publicly stated that North Korea was behind the WannaCry attack in May that impacted several NHS trusts and other institutions.
“This attack, we believe quite strongly that it came from a foreign state. North Korea was the state that we believe was involved this worldwide attack. It is widely believed in the community and across a number of countries that North Korea had taken this role,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Following Wallace’s statement, North Korea lashed out at Britain, terming the accusation as one of it’s ‘wicked attempts’ to corner the country further.
‘This is an act beyond the limit of our tolerance and it makes us question the real purpose behind the UK’s move,’ said a spokesman for the North Korea-Europe Association.
‘The moves of the UK government to doggedly associate the DPRK with the cyberattack cannot be interpreted in any other way than a wicked attempt to lure the international community into harboring greater mistrust of the DPRK,’ he added.
Two months later, North Korea renewed its verbal offensive, asking the US and Britain to ‘mind their own business‘ and to refrain from pointing fingers at it. In fact, the Korean Central News Agency featured a strongly-worded article in which it asked Theresa May to ‘mind her own business’.
“The US and its followers such as Britain had better mind their own businesses rather than provoking other countries over cyber attack. Last year Britain connected a cyber attack with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), in a far-fetched way, when the cyber attack crippled hundreds of thousands of computers linked to the system of national public health, making it impossible to give medical aid to more than 19,000 patients.
“At that time some experts alleged that they found signs of North Korea’s involvement, adding that the code used in the cyber attack was much like that in the previous hacking cases that seemed to be done by Pyongyang. Notably, a British official sniped at Pyongyang for its involvement in the cyber attack, claiming that the British Government was sure that North Korea was behind the case,” it read.
The article went on to say that “the DPRK, which gives top priority to the life and health of the people, made clear that it doesn’t make sense that the DPRK conducted such cyber attack targeting the health system of Britain. And it officially informed the UK side that its act of unilaterally finding fault with the DPRK without any evidence was a scheme to tarnish the image of the DPRK.”