A couple of months after North Korea termed Britain’s accusation of it being behind the WannaCry attacks as a ‘wicked attempt’ by Britain to corner it further, the kingdom has launched another verbal salvo, asking the US and Britain to ‘mind their own business’ and to refrain from pointing fingers at it.
Both Britain and the United States previously accused North Korea of being behind the WannaCry attacks that crippled IT systems at several organisations across the globe last year.
Back in November, Home Office Minister Ben Wallace became the first British official to publicly state that North Korea was behind the WannaCry ransomware attacks in May that impacted several NHS trusts and other organisations.
‘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.
A few days later, Thomas Bossert, a White House homeland security adviser, said that the United States ‘publicly attributed the massive ‘WannaCry’ cyber attack to North Korea’. He added that the U.S. reached this conclusion after completing a careful investigation.
In an article published in The Wall Street Journal, Bossert said that the U.S. would continue to use its maximum pressure strategy to curb Pyongyang’s ability to mount cyber attacks and that the private sector must ensure that cyber-attacks mounted by North Korean hackers aren’t successful.
As it turns out, North Korea isn’t willing to let either Britain or the United States fling accusations at it without responding firmly. First revealed by Express.co.uk, the Korean Central News Agency recently 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’.
Despite North Korea claiming innocence about the WannaCry attacks, its assertions that Britain is flinging accusations at it ‘without any evidence’ doesn’t hold much water.
Back in May, when hospitals and other NHS institutions across the UK were grappling with a devastating ransomware attack, Neel Mehta, a security researcher at Google, claimed that the ransomware shared an identical code with Cantopee, a malware used by a group of hackers named Lazarus group (linked to North Korea) to attack systems around the globe.
Martijn Grooten, a security researcher at Virus Bulletin, also told Ars Technica that the presence of a kill switch in WannaCry ransomware established that it originated in North Korea. A kill Switch is a tool used by state-sponsored hackers to kill off malware when objectives are achieved or to prevent collateral damage, like killing off their own systems.
“Killswitches in malware are rare, and I can only think of government malware with those built in. Governments care about collateral damage far more than criminals do. And North Korea has recently been active as the Lazarus group,” he said.