Date
17 August 2018
Tom Bossert, homeland security adviser to President Donald Trump, speaks at a press briefing at the White House Tuesday during which he spoke about cyber threats from North Korea. Photo: Reuters
Tom Bossert, homeland security adviser to President Donald Trump, speaks at a press briefing at the White House Tuesday during which he spoke about cyber threats from North Korea. Photo: Reuters

Facebook, Microsoft disabled N Korean cyber threat, says US

Facebook and Microsoft disabled a number of North Korean cyber threats last week, a White House official said on Tuesday, as Washington publicly blamed Pyongyang for a May cyberattack that crippled hospitals, banks and other companies, Reuters reports.

“Facebook took down accounts that stopped the operational execution of ongoing cyberattacks and Microsoft acted to patch existing attacks, not just the WannaCry attack initially,” White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert was quoted as saying.

Bossert did not provide details on the actions by the two American tech heavyweights but said the US government was calling on other firms to cooperate in cyber security defense, the report said.

Bossert’s remarks came during a White House news conference in which he blamed Pyongyang for the WannaCry attack that infected hundreds of thousands of computers in more than 150 countries earlier this year.

The US government has clear evidence that North Korea was responsible, the official said.

A Facebook spokesman confirmed that the company last week deleted accounts associated with a North Korea-linked hacking entity known as Lazarus Group “to make it harder for them to conduct their activities”, Reuters said.

The accounts were mostly personal profiles operated as fake accounts that were used to build relationships with potential targets, according to the spokesman.

Facebook said it also notified individuals in contact with these accounts.

The actions echoed similar steps the social media giant took this year against suspected Russian accounts that Facebook said were used to promote divisive political messages during the 2016 US presidential election.

In a blog post, Microsoft President Brad Smith said the company last week disrupted malware that the Lazarus Group relied upon, cleaned customers’ infected computers and “disabled accounts being used to pursue cyberattacks.”

The WannaCry attack was “meant to cause havoc and destruction,” Bossert said. He conceded there was little the US could do to exert further pressure on Pyongyang.

“We don’t have a lot of room left here to apply pressure to change their behavior,” Bossert said. “It’s nevertheless important to call them out, to let them know that it’s them and we know it’s them.”

Britain and several private sector security researchers previously concluded that North Korea was responsible for the attack.

Bossert said other countries including Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Canada also agreed with the US conclusion.

A senior administration official told Reuters on Monday that US intelligence agencies had a “very high level of confidence” that the Lazarus Group carried out the WannaCry attack.

Classified sources and methods were used to make that determination, the official said.

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RC

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