Hackers from North Korea pulled off one of the biggest cyber heists in history when they stole $81 million from Bangladesh’s central bank, America’s top spymaster told lawmakers on Tuesday.
National Intelligence Director Dan Coats told Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that North Korea poses a major threat to cybersecurity globally and the US in particular.
Criminals from the hermit state developed and launched the WannaCry ransomware in May 2017, judging from technical links to previously identified North Korean cyber tools, tradecraft, and operational infrastructure, he said.
“We also assess that these actors conducted the cyber theft of $81 million from the Bangladesh Bank in 2016,” Coats said when testifying on the assessment of the intelligence committee on worldwide threats.
Hackers broke into Bangladesh Bank computers and issued fake payment orders tricking the Federal Reserve Bank of New York into paying out $101 million to accounts in Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
Bangladesh has managed to recover parts of the money. Its central bank says it will sue Manila-based Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation from where the money disappeared.
‘US under attack’
During the Congressional hearing, Coats said Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea would pose the greatest cyber threats to the US during next year.
“These states are using cyber operations as a low-cost tool of statecraft, and we assess that they will work to use cyber operations to achieve strategic objectives unless they face clear repercussions for their cyber operations,” he said.
Russia has been accused of meddling with the 2016 US election that saw Donald Trump secure a shocking victory. Coats warned of continuation of “persistent and disruptive cyber operations” against the US and its European.
“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 US midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” Coats said.
Non-state actors will continue to use cyber operations for financial crimes and to enable propaganda and messaging, he said, adding: “Frankly, the United States is under attack.”
The use of cyber attack as a foreign policy tool outside of military conflict has been mostly limited to sporadic lower-level attacks. Russia, Iran, and North Korea, however, are testing more aggressive cyber attacks that pose growing threats to the US and its partners, Coats said.