20 Dec 2017

US blames N Korea for WannaCry attack

10:59 am on 20 December 2017

The head of the New Zealand's spy agency is concerned that North Korea has been linked to a major cyber attack which hit more than 150 countries this year.

A ransomware attack rolling out across the globe has affected Australian offices of global companies.

Photo: 123RF

The US has publicly pointed the finger at North Korea as the source of the WannaCry virus.

WannaCry encrypted data before demanding a ransom payment to unlock computers, a technique known as ransomware.

The attack this year hit more than 300,000 computers in 150 nations, affecting hospitals, businesses, banks and other companies notably including the UK's National Health Service.

President Donald Trump's homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said the regime was directly responsible.

He said Britain, Australia and New Zealand agreed with the US conclusion about the attack, which was widespread and cost billions.

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Photo: 123rf.com

"After careful investigation the United States is publicly attributing the massive WannaCry cyber attack to North Korea.

"We do not make this allegation lightly.

"Other governments and private companies agree - the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Japan have seen our analysis and they join us in denouncing North Korea for WannaCry."

The US government has assessed that a hacking entity known as Lazarus Group, which works on behalf of the North Korean government, was behind the virus.

New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) director-general Andrew Hampton said while New Zealand was not significantly affected by WannaCry, it was not immune from that type of threat.

"We support the actions of our cyber security partners in calling out this sort of reckless and malicious cyber activity.

"In the 12 months from June 2016 to June 2017 more than one third (122) of the 396 serious incidents recorded by the GCSB's National Cyber Security Centre involved indicators that have previously been linked to state-sponsored actors.

"Cyber threats continue to increase - in part because of New Zealand's global connectivity - but also because the cost barriers are low and getting lower, while the potential for harm is vast."

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