Pyongyang challenges Washington to present 'forensic evidence' about hacking

Lim Chang-won Reporter() | Posted : December 22, 2017, 10:35 | Updated : December 22, 2017, 10:35

[Yonhap Photo]

SEOUL, Dec. 22 (Aju News) --  North Korea blasted the United States for making false accusations to link the cash-strapped country to cyber attacks as South Korean investigators work hard to find out who is behind a wave of hacking against a bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange.

Pyongyang urged Washington to present "forensic evidence" and denounced U.S accusations as "a direct challenge to our system and political power", in an apparent response to remarks this week by Thomas Bossert, a U.S. presidential assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism.

Bossert accused Pyongyang of conducting a cyber attack using WannaCry ransomware that affected computers across the world this year. "After careful investigation, the United States is publicly attributing the massive WannaCry cyberattack to North Korea," he said. 

"We do not make this allegation lightly. We do so with evidence and we do so with partners," the White House staffer said.

In a statement published on late Thursday by Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency, a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said: "The U.S., a source of all social evils and a state of global cyber-crimes, is unreasonably accusing the DPRK (North Korea) without any forensic evidence."

A "reckless" U.S. move to use the issue of cyber attacks for direct accusations against North Korea can never be tolerated,  the spokesman said. "The U.S. move is also a direct challenge to our system and political power."

Despite Pyongyang's repeated denials of its involvement in any cyber attacks, experts believe North Korean hackers are suspected of having developed and tested various ransomware.

Bowing to a wave of attacks by hackers, Youbit, a Seoul-based cryptocurrency exchange, suspended transactions on Tuesday to file for bankruptcy. Investigators have yet to determine who was behind the attack.

The South's unification ministry said earlier that it was working on steps to stop the North's cyber piracy. "We are aware that North Korea has been engaged in various activities so far to evade sanctions and earn foreign currency," ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told reporters.

Cyber experts insist the impoverished North has been desperate to secure foreign currencies due to tight international sanctions.

TechCrunch, an American online publisher of technology industry news, suggested in an article that North Korea may have pumped up the price of pirated crypto assets by increasing uncertainty and distrustfulness through its nuclear testing and traditional bank hacking.

North Korea has used its skill sets to steal bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies from around the world, it said.

"While we don't know with precision who is behind each of these hacks, the pattern is quite clear according to security researchers: North Korea is actively hacking the bitcoin and cryptocurrency ecosystem in a push to gain as much cryptocurrency for the regime as possible," the online publisher reported.

Now that the prices of cryptocurrencies have jumped, North Korean hackers are presumably trying to end their exposure and translate their hard hacking work into real currency, it said.

North Korea's hacking and provocations have synchronized to create a potential windfall for the regime, TechCruch said. "(North Korean leader Kim Jong-un) may well be the next crypto-millionaire, and might have helped thousands of others in the process."
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