The National Security Agency has linked Kim Jong Un’s government in North Korea to a computer virus that affected more than 300,000 people in about 150 countries last month. (Wong Maye-E/AP)
The National Security Agency has linked Kim Jong Un’s government in North Korea to a computer virus that affected more than 300,000 people in about 150 countries last month. (Wong Maye-E/AP)

The National Security Agency has linked the North Korean government to the creation of the WannaCry computer worm that affected more than 300,000 people in some 150 countries last month, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

The assessment, which was issued internally last week and has not been made public, is based on an analysis of tactics, techniques and targets that point with “moderate confidence” to North Korea’s spy agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, according to an individual familiar with the report.

The assessment states that “cyber actors” suspected to be “sponsored by” the RGB were behind two versions of WannaCry, a worm that was built around an NSA hacking tool that had been obtained and posted online last year by an anonymous group calling itself the Shadow Brokers.

It was the first computer worm to be paired with ransomware, which encrypts data on victims’ computers and demands a ransom to restore access.

WannaCry was apparently an attempt to raise revenue for the regime, but analysts said the effort was flawed. Though the hackers raised $140,000 in bitcoin, a form of digital currency, so far they have not cashed it in, the analysts said. That is likely because an operational error has made the transactions easy to track, including by law enforcement.

As a result, no online currency exchange will touch it, said Jake Williams, founder of Rendition Infosec, a cybersecurity firm. “This is like knowingly taking tainted bills from a bank robbery,” he said.

Though the assessment is not conclusive, the preponderance of the evidence points to Pyongyang. It includes the range of computer Internet protocol addresses in China historically used by the RGB, and the assessment is consistent with intelligence gathered recently by other Western spy agencies. It states that the hackers behind WannaCry are also called “the Lazarus Group,” a name used by private-sector researchers.

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SOURCE: Ellen Nakashima 
The Washington Post

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