US cracks down on North Korean hackers attacking hospitals

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FBI and Justice Department recently disrupted a North Korean government-sponsored hacking group that attacked US hospitals with ransomware, eventually returning half a million dollars in ransom, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said Tuesday.

Monaco revealed new details of the attacks during a speech in which she urged organizations affected by ransomware to report the crime to law enforcement, both so officials can investigate and so they can help companies- victims to try to recover the ransoms paid.

In this case, according to Monaco, the Kansas hospital that paid the ransom last year after the ransomware attack also contacted the FBI, which tracked the payment and identified China-based money launderers who helped North Korean hackers when cashing illegal proceeds. Ultimately, the FBI returned half a million dollars, including the entire ransom from the hospital.

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FBI agents approach the crime scene

FBI agents approach the crime scene
(Getty images)

U.S. officials struggled in 2021 to counter a wave of high-profile ransomware attacks in which hackers encrypt or block victims’ data and demand exorbitant amounts for their return, including against a critical fuel pipeline on the East Coast. While the pace of such large-scale front-page attacks seems to have slowed, smaller targets… such as hospitals – continue to work.

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This particular variant of the ransomware, known as “Maui”, was specifically targeted at hospitals and public health organizations across the country.

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attends a meeting of the ruling party's political bureau in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sunday, May 29, 2022.

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attends a meeting of the ruling party’s political bureau in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sunday, May 29, 2022.
(Central Korean News Agency / Korean News Service via AP)

According to her, companies invariably ask why they should cooperate with law enforcement and what it gives them.

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General view of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI building in Washington, USA, on March 10, 2019.

General view of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI building in Washington, USA, on March 10, 2019.
(REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert)

“The answer is that if you report this attack, if you report the ransom demand and payment, if you cooperate with the FBI, we can take action,” Monaco said in a speech at Fordham Law School. “We can follow the money and get it back; we can help prevent the next attack, the next victim; and we can keep cybercriminals accountable.”

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Late Tuesday FBI Director Christopher Wray and gen. Paul Nakasone, head of US Cyber ​​Command and the National Security Agency, was expected to speak on election security.