Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Hackers mint crypto-currency with technique similar to WannaCry 'ransomware' attack

Hackers mint crypto-currency with technique similar to WannaCry 'ransomware' attack

The WannaCry ransomware attack has been linked to the infamous Lazarus Group, which was behind the devastating hacks on Sony Pictures in 2014 and a Bangladeshi bank in 2016.

On Monday, the U.N. Security Council said it was vital that North Korea show "sincere commitment to denuclearization through concrete action and stressed the importance of working to reduce tensions".The council demanded North Korea halt its tests and said it was ready to impose further sanctions.North Korea's foreign ministry rejected the statement, saying it infringed on its right to self-defence, particularly as the missile was sacked at a sharp angle to ensure the safety of neighboring countries.

Other possibilities are that Lazarus code was inadvertently copied into the early versions of WannaCry or that Lazarus created WannaCry but was not directly involved in weaponizing it with NSA software and unleashing it on the world last weekend.

As security firm Kaspersky explains, the message refers to a block of code found in both an early version of the WannaCry virus - the far less harmful version that was turbocharged into a global menace with the addition of stolen National Security Agency hacking tools - and code obtained from a hacking group called Lazarus in 2015.

"The group's chief executive Itai Tevet said in a tweet: "@IntezerLabs confirms attribution to North Korea for #WannaCry, not only because of the function from Lazarus.

After a malware researcher pressed the kill switch, which we will describe later in this post, the number of detections significantly decreased to approximately 2,000 per hour, late Friday afternoon.

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Lazarus is believed to operate from China-for North Korea.

Three computer security companies, Symantec, Kapersky and Hauri, have said the WannaCry software appears to share code used by hacking groups linked to North Korea which attacked South Korean banks, TV stations and Sony in the past. But North Korea has been preparing cyber skills for more than 10 years and its skill is significant.

The announcement published Tuesday is another twist in the developing story of the global attack, and challenges statements from Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Labs that the attacks were tied to North Korea. Prior to the meeting, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the U.S. will not be holding any talks with North Korea unless it sees a total stop to the regimes nuclear process and testing. There are ways to convert bitcoins into cash on the sly through third parties. This would help them to plan if their country is attacked.

James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said USA investigators are collecting forensic information - such as internet addresses, samples of malware or information the culprits might have inadvertently left on computers - that could be matched with the handiwork of known hackers. The $4 billion in damage could be far more important to the perpetrators than the $70,000 or less in ransom payments collected.

Forensics, though, will only get investigators so far.

Even if the perpetrators can be identified, bringing them to justice could be another matter.

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