'WannaCry' shares code with Sony hack, raising possibility of N. Korea connection

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A South Korean cybersecurity expert said Tuesday there is more circumstantial evidence that North Korea may be behind the global "ransomware" attack: the way the hackers took hostage computers and servers across the world was similar to previous cyberattacks attributed to North Korea. He found similarities between code found within WannaCry - the software used in the hack - and other tools believed to have been created by the Lazarus Group in the past.

It matches code used in a 2016 hack of global banks and mirrors methods used in the 2014 Sony hack - both hacks have since been linked to North Korea-run Lazarus Group.

The European police agency also said it was too early to determine who was behind a massive cyber attack.

In a blog post on Sunday, Microsoft Corp President Brad Smith confirmed what researchers already widely concluded: The attack made use of a hacking tool built by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) that had leaked online in April.

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WannaCry has been characterized as a sloppy attack with poor money handling on the ransom end, putting an nearly absurdly small sum in the hackers' Bitcoin account compared to the scale of global havoc they have inflicted.

"Mostly they hack directly, but they hack other countries first and transfer [the data] so various other countries are found when we trace back, but a specific IP address located in Pyongyang can be found in the end", said Choi Sang-myung, a senior director of the cybersecurity firm Hauri Inc.in Seoul. "We should never underestimate it", Choi said. In 2014, Sony Pictures underwent a cyber attack. The U.S. government has not commented directly on the matter. "More details in June", it promised.

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.

In China, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she had no information to share, when asked about the origin of the attack and whether North Korea might be connected. There were no signs that the attack sought to single out the USA or South Korea, despite its emergence at a time of high tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The nation shut its computers at educational institutions, local government offices and other significant places that were expected to be worst affected. The Lazarus hackers have been linked to North Korea, raising suspicions that the nation could be responsible for the attack.

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Several Asian countries have been affected by the malware, although the impact has not been as widespread as some had feared.

"We are talking about a possibility, not that this was done by North Korea", Choi said. It did not name any of the entities. China has been one of the major victims of the attack.

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Taiwan Power Co. TAIWP.UL said that almost 800 of its computers were affected, although these were used for administration, not for systems involved in electricity generation.

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