Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Experts question North Korea role in WannaCry cyberattack

Rosalie Gross | 25 May, 2017, 08:49

Identifying hackers behind sophisticated attacks is a notoriously hard task, and proving they are acting under the explicit orders of a nation state is even trickier. The Sony Pictures hack in 2014 and another attack on a Bangladesh bank in 2016 have both been attributed to the Lazarus.

The hacker group behind the leak of cyber spying tools from the U.S. National Security Agency, which were used in last week's "ransomware" cyberattack, says it has more code that it plans to start selling through a subscription service launching next month.

Lazarus is a serious player in the cybercrime world.

"I believe that China will stay true to that and we will come together on how we're going to do that", she said. "Their focus, victimology, and guerrilla-style tactics indicate a dynamic, agile and highly malicious entity, open to data destruction in addition to conventional cyberespionage operations".

The Lazarus Group has been blamed for several attacks dating back to 2009.

Banks, health care and IT organisations in 150 countries had been hit as 200,000 computers were impacted, it informed North Korean readers, who are isolated from the internet. Victims received warnings on their computer screens that if they did not pay the ransom within three days, the demand would double.

On an online messenger system, Choi told Reuters, "He said he and his colleagues were running tests for ransomware attacks". Security expert Prof Alan Woodward said time stamps within the original WannaCry code are set to UTC +9 - China's time zone - and the text demanding the ransom uses what reads like machine- translated English, but a Chinese segment is apparently written by a native speaker, the report said. "It would represent an entirely new type of cyberattack by the DPRK".

The New York Times reports that us government officials have seen the similarities between WannaCry and the weapons employed in previous cyber attacks linked to North Korea, including the Sony hack, an assault on the central bank of Bangladesh past year, and an attack on Polish banks in February.

There are other surprises, that suggest this is not an ordinary ransomware attack. "From an attribution point of view a ransomware would subscribe to the narrative of Lazarus Group, which is stealing money like we saw with multiple financial institutions with fraudulent SWIFT transactions - having a nation-state powered ransomware leveraging crypto currency would be a first". This would help them to plan if their country is attacked.

Other cybersecurity experts question the Pyongyang angle on different grounds. It discovered early versions of WannaCry on systems that had been compromised by the Lazarus group's tools. One code sample is from the early version of WannaCry, and the other is from the malicious software used by Lazarus, called Contopee.

"We have underestimated North Korea so far that since North Korea is poor, it wouldn't have any technologies".

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