Members of Congress are hoping that President Donald Trump will address cybersecurity issues with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un at their June 12 summit in Singapore.
“I hope it’s not just a summit to turn a blind eye to other malign activities of North Korea,” Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner told Politico for a Saturday report.
Gardner chairs a Senate subcommittee overseeing global cybersecurity and East Asia and also sponsored a 2016 law penalizing Pyongyang economically for its online attacks.
“I think you’ve got an opportunity to do some good things here.”
Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned against assuming that a nuclear deal meant “you’ve solved the problem, when [Kim] can switch to an alternate form of conflict, moving from nuclear missile technology to sophisticated cyber.”
However, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican, told Politico that he expected the issue to come up next month.
“I’ve got to believe that’s going to be one of the things they talk about,” he said.
Pyongyang has become a formidable cyber power, Politico reports, having committed online bank robberies, ransomware attacks and the 2014 hack on Sony Pictures.
North Korea — along with Russia, China and Iran — is now one of U.S.’ top digital adversaries, experts say.
The White House has yet to disclose the topics to be discussed between Trump and Kim next month.
A National Security Council spokesperson told Politico that the council did not want to “get ahead of the president on the summit.”
However, some national security experts warned against broadening the meeting to other topics—cautioning that nuclear disarmament was fraught with enough perils in and of itself.
“We’re talking about nuclear weapons here, and someone wants Trump to talk about Sony or [the 2016 Bangladesh bank hack]?” Jason Healey, a researcher at Columbia University who headed the cyber infrastructure protection program in the George W. Bush White House, asked Politico.
“Please, those are issues we can manage with so many other tools at our disposal, whereas dealing with nuclear issues has pretty much either negotiation or death, perhaps of millions.”
Republican Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina said: “I’m not opposed to it going on the agenda.
“The question is, how many things can you ask them to eliminate in one negotiation?”
In addition, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, a California Republican, told Politico that the summit’s “primary focus must be North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.”
Pyongyang has been blamed for the WannaCry global ransomware virus of May 2017, which took hold of tens of thousands of computer systems in least 150 countries.
Britain’s health system was briefly paralyzed, according to Politico. FedEx, Maersk, the Russian interior ministry and Spanish telecom and natural gas companies were also affected.
While the virus was designed to extort victims into paying to regain access to their digital files, the malware apparently was released prematurely and only netted the country tens of thousands of dollars, according to Politico.
However, North Korean hackers are believed to be responsible for a bold digital theft that exploited an international payment transfer system to siphon $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank in February 2016.
In addition, Pyongyang might have used its hacking skills to create several virtual coins — in turn, hijacking foreign computers to mine cryptocurrency and sending it back North Korea — and hacking into cryptocurrency exchanges to steal hundreds of millions of dollars in digital money.
“North Korea has acted especially badly, largely unchecked, for more than a decade,” Tom Bossert, the former White House homeland security adviser, said in pinning the 2017 WannaCry attack on the North.
“Its malicious behavior is growing more egregious.”
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