Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:
1. Remember WannaCry? The Trump Administration formally said North Korea was behind this year’s WannaCry ransomware outbreak. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, senior White House official Tom Bossert wrote that the U.S. government has enough evidence to trace the WannaCry attack to affiliates of the North Korean government. While the U.S. government rarely publically attributes attacks, Bossert wrote that Pyongyang’s behavior was “indiscriminately reckless” and vowed to hold the country accountable. That’s easier said than done, especially since the U.S. has already levied wide-ranging sanctions on the country and has few additional options to punish Pyongyang.
For some experts, the White House’s public attribution of WannaCry to North Korea was a missed opportunity. As Kristen Eichensehr writes, Bossert’s op-ed, which fails to present hard evidence, “does little to set an example or establish an evidentiary best practice for states to follow in attributing future cyberattacks to states or state-sponsored actors.” There is also the elephant in the room: namely, that WannaCry exploited leaked a National Security Agency (NSA) cyberweapon. Jake Williams, a former member of the NSA’s elite Tailored Access Operations, wrote on Twitter, “If a Somali terrorist blew up a bomb in NYC using explosives supplied by the Syrian government, I don't think we'd ever talk about the attack without talking about Syria. Whether you like it or not, the US supplied the ‘explosives’ for WannaCry.”
2. “The Cyber” is strong with this one. The Trump administration released its National Security Strategy this week, and at least on the cyber front, the document is receiving high marks. Michael Sulmeyer writes the Trump Administration’s NSS “feels like a more thorough treatment of cybersecurity as a core national-security concern than we’ve seen in the past.” This is because the document weaves cybersecurity into almost every aspect of national security, rather than leaving it on the sidelines. The document mentions fighting terrorist havens online, protecting federal networks and helping build private sector cybersecurity standards, and accuses China of conducting “cyber-enabled economic warfare.” The document also has tough words for Russia on its cyber activity—although the document stops short of calling out Russia for interfering in the 2016 election or addressing how to prevent interference from occurring again.
3. Did someone say election security? A bipartisan group of senators is pushing a bill to bolster election cyber defenses following Russia’s 2016 election interference. The bill would authorize block grants for states to upgrade outdated technology and create a panel of experts to develop non-binding cybersecurity guidelines for election systems. It would also create a “bug bounty” program to encourage white-hat hackers to identify vulnerabilities in the election systems. The new bill comes as lawmakers scramble to do something before voters head to the polls in 2018. According to some experts, it might be too late to protect some key targets.
4. The Dear Leader wants your Bitcoin. As the world freaks out about Bitcoin, at least one country is attempting to line its pockets with anonymous cryptocurrencies. Investigators in South Korea are looking into whether North Korea was behind a cyber heist that led a Seoul-based cryptocurrency exchange to collapse this week. In September, FireEye reported that a wave of North Korean attacks on South Korean exchanges coincided with the latest wave international sanctions. Pyongyang has likely made a handsome profit off the cryptocurrency boom – which, ironically, has been fueled in part by the uncertainty that North Korea’s brinkmanship in the region has created. North Korea’s involvement in the cryptocurrency market will likely raise new questions about how cryptocurrencies can empower rogue states and non-state actors.
(Editor’s note: There will be no week in review on Friday, December 29. Happy Holidays!)