US authorities say 'North Korean spy' behind WannaCry cyber attacks


The US justice department has charged an alleged North Korean spy for being one of those behind the WannaCry cyber attacks on computers including those belonging to the NHS.

The Guardian reported that Park Jin Hyok, 34, was also involved in an attack against the Sony Corporation in 2014 and an $81m theft from the Bank of Bangladesh in 2016, according to a criminal complaint.

It remains to be seen whether North Korea will make Park available to the US over the hacking claims.

At the time of the WannaCry attack, which happened in May last year, medical appointments including operations were cancelled and ambulances were diverted. Staff had to use pen and paper, as they could not access records.

A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) revealed that hospital trusts were left vulnerable to attack because basic recommendations to keep cyber security tight were not followed.

The computers affected were running an old version of Windows, which has had no security updates for three years, leaving the software open to abuse. When staff opened emails containing malware, they were asked to pay $300 worth of crypto currency Bitcoin to retrieve the files. The hackers asked for money to restore normal services, threatening to destroy data if their demands were unmet.

US officials believe the hacking was carried out because individuals objected to a film, The Interview, being released. The film belittled North Korea and sparked anger, with promises of retaliation in cinemas if the film was shown. The Interview was released later than scheduled as an online rental or purchase.

At the time of the attack, the government was criticised for failing to invest in its infrastructure and said the lack of investment left the organisation open to cyber attack.

The government hit back, saying that the NHS had made ‘good preparations’ and that trusts had been warned to upgrade their systems.