Symantec says 'highly likely' North Korea group behind ransomware attacks

An analysis of the recent "WannaCry" ransomware attack has uncovered "strong links" connecting its perpetrators with previous activity attributed to the so-called Lazarus Group, a cybercrime outfit accused of conducting the colossal Sony hack and other high-profile intrusions, according to Symantec, a Silicon Valley-based security company.

American cyber-security firm Symantec said in a new report that tools and infrastructure used in the devastating WannaCry ransomware attack strongly suggest that a hacking group affiliated with North Korea was behind the malware attack that infected over 300,000 computers worldwide.

According to Symantec, the ransomware had numerous hallmarks of other Lazarus attacks, including the 2014 strike on Sony Pictures and a multimillion-dollar theft from the Bangladesh Central Bank.

Researchers at Symantec found multiple instances of code reuse from earlier versions of WannaCry and Lazarus' previous attacks. "(But) we don't think that this is an operation run by a nation-state".

Duzzer, which has previously been linked to Lazarus as well. The attack used two variants of the malware known as Destover, which was used in the Sony Attacks, and one of Volgmer, used in attacks against South Korean targets.

North Korea's Deputy Ambassador to the UN Kim In Ryong, however, dismissed allegations that Pyongyang was involved in the WannaCry cyberattack or the UN hack as "ridiculous".

In the Sony hack, USA government and security companies accused North Korea.

While Lazarus Group is said to have ties to North Korea it's rather hard to pin point where the group operates from and whether it is executing the attacks on behalf of another party.

"The intelligence community will probably take away from this that there is a possibility of splinters in the Lazarus Group, or members who are filling their own pockets", said Thakur.

Analysts have been weighing in with various theories on the identity of those behind WannaCry, and some early evidence had pointed to North Korea.

Cyberattacks backed by governments "are usually impeccable, they don't make rookie mistakes", said Thakur.

Despite the ties to Lazarus, WannaCry attacks doesn't appear to be a case of a nation-state campaign, states Symantec.

Finally, WannaCry and Lazarus-linked Backdoor.Contopee contain shared code.

Other digital crumbs linking the North Korean group to WannaCry include a tool that deletes data that had been used in other Lazarus attacks.

The hacking group widely blamed for breaching Sony Pictures in 2014 was "highly likely" behind the unprecedented WannaCry ransomware attack responsible for crippling computer systems around the world this month, a leading American cybersecurity firm said Monday.

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