Experts say global cyber attack similar to North Korean hacks

A screenshot of the warning screen ransomware attack as captured by a computer user in Taiwan seen Saturday

A screenshot of the warning screen ransomware attack as captured by a computer user in Taiwan seen Saturday

The discovery was made by a Google security researcher, Neel Mehta, who pointed it out in a cryptic tweet on Monday the parallel between an early version of the WannaCry tool used last week and code used by Lazurus in several years ago.

President Trump's administration estimates that less than $70,000 (£54,285) has been paid to the criminals behind the ransomware so far.

Experts said earlier in the day that they had detected signs of a possible North Korean link to "WannaCry", a malware which spread through computers in key European countries and demanded to receive cash from users to release their sensitive files and information.

Symantec and Kaspersky are investigating whether hackers from Lazarus Group were responsible for infecting an estimated 300,000 machines in 150 countries.

FireEye Inc, another large cyber security firm, said it was also investigating, but it was cautious about drawing a link to North Korea.

Researcher John Miller said: "The similarities we see between malware linked to that group and WannaCry are not unique enough to be strongly suggestive of a common operator". North Korean officials were not immediately available for comment and its state media has been quiet about the matter.

While the attacks have raised concerns for cyber authorities and end-users worldwide, they have helped cybersecurity stocks as investors bet governments and corporations will spend more to upgrade their defences.

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During a White House briefing, Mr Bossert said no federal systems in the United States had been affected by the malicious software.

Meanwhile, the 22-year old computer expert who discovered the WannaCry's hidden kill switch says he does not think of himself as a hero and was just "doing my bit to stop botnets". However, at this point cyber security experts are not dismissing any possibilities as they try to wrap their heads around the scope and severity of this attack.

The number of infections has fallen dramatically since Friday's peak when more than 9,000 computers were being hit per hour. Earlier on Monday, Chinese traffic police and schools reported they had been targeted as the attack rolled into Asia for the new work week, but no there were no major disruptions.

Shares in firms that provide cyber security services rose sharply, led by Israel's Cyren Ltd and USA -based FireEye.

"This was not a tool developed by the NSA to hold ransom data".

In Malaysia, cybersecurity firm LE Global Services said it identified 12 cases so far, including a large government-linked corporation, a government-linked investment firm and an insurance company.

Mr Putin said: "A genie let out of a bottle of this kind, especially created by secret services, can then cause damage to its authors and creators".

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