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Oscar Williams

News editor

North Korean hackers pose “a growing threat” to the UK

North Korea’s burgeoning black hat hacker scene poses a growing threat to the UK government, businesses and consumers, the defence select committee has warned in a new report.

The report quotes security expert Nigel Inkster, who warns that while North Korea does not represent as significant a threat as Russia and China, its capabilities are developing rapidly.

“I would not put them in the same league as China and Russia in terms of either firepower, so to speak, or technical sophistication, but they are moving up the chain rapidly,” he told the committee.

The report highlights that North Korea’s rogue activity in cyber space has already had a considerable impact on the UK: “It is likely that North Korea has already conducted a cyber-attack on the UK through the Wannacry ransomware, which particularly disrupted the UK’s health system.”

While the attack was not specifically targeted at the NHS, the report notes that it exposed how vulnerable the health service was to malware. The attack forced doctors to cancel more than 19,000 appointments across the country.

North Korea might consider South Korea, Japan and the US to be its primary targets, but the report warns that the regime is relatively trigger happy when it comes to launching attacks in cyber space.

The MoD told the committee in written evidence: “We judge North Korea to have a relatively low threshold for use of offensive cyber capabilities. For the most part, North Korean cyber-attacks have targeted South Korea.

“But as international sanctions tighten, the country may place more emphasis on the money-making opportunities that these capabilities afford, thereby subverting sanctions. Any actions of governments […] perceived by the regime to be insulting to the regime could lead to the use of offensive cyber.”