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Indian-origin Google Researcher Neel Mehta links ransomware Attack to North Korea

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Cyber Attacks, VOA
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London/Washington, May 16, 2017: As the world struggles to identify cybercriminals behind the global ransowmware attack that hit 150 countries, an Indian-origin security researcher working with Google has claimed that the hackers may have links to North Korea.

According to Neel Mehta’s discovery, the “Lazarus Group” that works on behalf of North Koreans may be behind the attack as the hacking group has, in the past, used the same coding and tools as were used in “WannaCrypt” — the software used in the current hacking into the Microsoft operating software, the BBC reported on Tuesday.

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“Neel Mehta’s discovery is the most significant clue to date regarding the origins of WannaCrypt,” the report quoted Moscow-based cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab as saying.

“Lazarus Group”, that according to Mehta is based in China, was responsible for a major hack on Sony Pictures in 2014 and another on a Bangladeshi bank in 2016.

Kaspersky Lab, however, noted that a lot more information was needed about earlier versions of “WannaCrypt” before any firm conclusion could be reached.

“We believe it’s important that other researchers around the world investigate these similarities and attempt to discover more facts about the origin of ‘WannaCrypt’,” the cyber security company added.

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Though North Korea has never admitted any involvement in the Sony Pictures hack, security researchers and the US government are confident in the theory and neither can rule out the possibility of a false flag.

There are possibilities that skilled hackers might have simply made the hack look like it had origins in North Korea by using similar techniques.

Kaspersky noted that false flags within “WannaCrypt” were “possible” but “improbable”, as the shared code was removed from later versions.

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There is another possibility that “Lazarus Group” may be working independently and without the instructions from North Korea, the report added.

Meanwhile, the White House said on Monday that less than $70,000 has been paid in the ransomware attack globally.

“We are not aware of payments that have led to any data recovery,” White House Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert said at a daily briefing.

Specially, no US federal systems are affected, he said. (IANS)

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Google’s ‘Chat’ service a gift to cybercriminals: Amnesty

RCS is a communication protocol between mobile-telephone carriers and between phone and carrier

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The logo of Google.
Google Chat is gift cybercriminals. Pixabay

Google’s decision to launch a new messaging service called “Chat” without end-to-end encryption shows utter contempt for the privacy of Android users and has handed a precious gift to cybercriminals and government spies alike, Amnesty International has said.

Communications on the new “Chat” service will not be sent over the Internet but through mobile phone carriers, like SMS text messages, according to reports.

Google Chat is becoming more famous.

In a statement to The Verge this week, a Google spokesperson confirmed that the new service will not use end-to-end encryption and that Google is “pausing investment” in its existing mobile messaging app “Allo” which has an option for end-to-end encryption.

“Not only does this shockingly retrograde step leave Google lagging behind its closest competitors — Apple’s iMessage and Facebook’s WhatsApp both have end-to-end encryption in place by default — it is also a step backwards from the company’s previous attempts at online messaging,” Joe Westby, a technology and human rights researcher at Amnesty International, said on Friday.

Also Read: Google Will Take Action If Apps Violate Its Policies

Amnesty International considers end-to-end encryption a minimum requirement for technology companies to ensure that private information in messaging apps stays private. End-to-end encryption is a way of scrambling digital data so that only the sender and recipient can see it.

When it is in place, even the company providing the service is unable to access the content of communications. “Following the revelations by CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden, end-to-end encryption has become recognised as an essential safeguard for protecting people’s privacy when using messaging apps. With this new Chat service, Google shows a staggering failure to respect the human rights of its customers,” Westby said in a statement.

A Google picture.
The Chat is a security threat. VOA

In the wake of the recent Facebook data scandal, Westby said that Google’s decision is not only dangerous but also out of step with current attitudes to data privacy. “Google should immediately scrap it in its current form and instead give its customers a product that protects their privacy,” Westby suggested.

Google is going all in on building the Rich Communication Services (RCS). RCS is a communication protocol between mobile-telephone carriers and between phone and carrier, aiming at replacing SMS messages with a text-message system that is more rich, provide phonebook polling and transmit in-call multimedia. IANS