Hackers mint crypto-currency with technique in global ransomware attack

The letters read

China is preparing to enforce a wide-reaching cyber security law that US business groups say will threaten the operations of foreign firms in the country with strict local data storage laws and stringent surveillance requirements.

The Lazarus hackers, acting for impoverished North Korea, have been more brazen in their pursuit of financial gain than others, and have been blamed for the theft of $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank, according to some cyber security firms. Haley previously indicated that new sanctions could target oil, a critical import for North Korea mainly from China, and she said Tuesday the USA also wants sanctions on organizations and businesses in third countries that are helping Pyongyang.

A screenshot of the warning screen from a purported ransomware attack, as captured by a computer user in Taiwan.

Symantec, Intezer Labs of Israel and Russia's Kaspersky Lab on Monday agreed that a considerable part of the "WannaCry" ransomware is identical with a hacking program used by the Lazarus group, which has ties to North Korea.

"He said the worldwide community must continue to speak out in one voice and act in solidarity to make North Korea stop further provocations and come back to dialogue".

"We raised the alert on Sunday in preparation for an attack against the military network by hostile forces on the strength of the spread of ransomware", he added.

After days of disruptions affecting networks worldwide, a top United States official said the number of computers affected had reached 300,000, but that infection rates had slowed.

The cybersecurity firm, however, also said that code similarities are not enough to come to conclusions about WannaCry's origin as it could possibly be a false flag operation.

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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.

Some experts see the latest attack as an anomaly.

"As South Korea's diplomatic situation matures, North Korea should also show a more mature attitude, not a childish one, and contribute to (establishing a better) diplomatic relationship". There have been three accounts identified so far, and there's no indication yet that the criminals have touched the funds. There are ways to convert bitcoins into cash on the sly through third parties.

Reuters notes that the Chinese Foreign Ministry had no comment on the record about North Korea's possible involvement in the attack, which has done considerable damage in Asian countries, including China.

Ahead of the hour and a half council session Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Washington and Beijing are discussing the possibility of additional measures on the North.

That means the very first attempts to reach that address, which might have been recorded by spy agencies such as the NSA or Russian intelligence, could lead to "patient zero" - the first computer infected with WannaCry.

Forensics, though, will only get investigators so far.

"It can take months or even years to gather all the evidence and build a case", said Costin Raiu, head of Kaspersky's global research and analysis.

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