North Korea denies role in WannaCry ransomware attack

WannaCry infected some 300,000 computers in 150 nations in May, encrypting user files and demanding hundreds of dollars from their owners for the keys to get them back. (AFP)
Updated 21 December 2017
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North Korea denies role in WannaCry ransomware attack

SEOUL: North Korea on Thursday denied US accusations it was behind the WannaCry global ransomware cyberattack, saying Washington was demonizing it.
WannaCry infected some 300,000 computers in 150 nations in May, encrypting user files and demanding hundreds of dollars from their owners for the keys to get them back.
The White House this week blamed Pyongyang for it, adding its voice to several other countries that had already done so.
A spokesman for Pyongyang’s foreign ministry said the US allegations were “absurd,” adding: “As we have clearly stated on several occasions, we have nothing to do with cyber-attacks.”
Washington had “ulterior” motives, the spokesman added according to the North’s KCNA news agency.
“This move is a grave political provocation by the US aimed at inducing the international society into a confrontation against the DPRK by tarnishing the image of the dignified country and demonizing it,” he said.
North Korea is subject to multiple United Nations sanctions over its banned nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and tested its third ICBM last month.
Leader Kim Jong-Un declared his country had achieved full nuclear statehood, in a challenge to US President Donald Trump who responded with promises of “major sanctions.”
According to experts North Korea’s cyberwarfare targets have expanded from the political — it was accused of hacking into Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014 to take revenge for “The Interview,” a satirical film that mocked Kim — to the financial, as it seeks new sources of funding.
A South Korean cryptocurrency exchange shut down on Tuesday after losing 17 percent of its assets in a hacking — its second cyberattack this year, with the North accused of involvement in the first.
Investigators are probing the possibility that Pyongyang was also behind Tuesday’s incident, the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News reported.
The North is blamed for a massive $81 million cyber-heist from the Bangladesh Central Bank (BCB) in 2016, as well as the theft of $60 million from Taiwan’s Far Eastern International Bank in October.
Pyongyang has angrily denied the accusations — which it described as a “slander” against the authorities — but analysts say the digital footprints left behind suggest otherwise.


Postman, shopper, builder: In Japan, there’s a robot for that

Updated 18 October 2018
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Postman, shopper, builder: In Japan, there’s a robot for that

  • CarriRo “is designed to roll along the pavements and direct itself via GPS to an address within a two-kilometer radius,” explained Chio Ishikawa, from Sumitomo Corp, which is promoting the robot
  • The lucky recipient of the package is sent a code to a smartphone allowing him or her to access CarriRo’s innards and retrieve whatever is inside — post, medicine or a take-away

TOKYO: Forget the flashy humanoids with their gymnastics skills: at the World Robot Summit in Tokyo, the focus was on down-to-earth robots that can deliver post, do the shopping and build a house.
Introducing CarriRo, a delivery robot shaped a bit like a toy London bus with bright, friendly “eyes” on its front that can zip around the streets delivering packages at 6km/h (4 miles per hour).
CarriRo “is designed to roll along the pavements and direct itself via GPS to an address within a two-kilometer radius,” explained Chio Ishikawa, from Sumitomo Corp, which is promoting the robot.
The lucky recipient of the package is sent a code to a smartphone allowing him or her to access CarriRo’s innards and retrieve whatever is inside — post, medicine or a take-away.
Services like this are especially needed in aging Japan. With nearly 28 percent of the population over 65, mobility is increasingly limited and the country is struggling for working-age employees.
Toyota’s HSR (Human Support Robot) may not be an oil painting to look at — standing a meter tall, it looks like a bin with arms — but it can provide vital help for the aged or handicapped at home.
Capable of handling and manoeuvring a variety of objects, it also provides a key interface with the outside world via its Internet-connected screen for a head.
Japan’s manpower shortage is felt especially keenly in the retail and construction sectors and firms at the summit were keen to demonstrate their latest solutions.
Omron showcased a robot that can be programmed to glide around a supermarket and place various items into a basket. Possibly useful for a lazy — or infirm — shopper but more likely to be put to use in a logistics warehouse.
Japan also has difficulty finding staff to stack shelves at its 55,000 convenience stores open 24/7 and here too, robots can fill the gap.
With buildings going up at breakneck pace as Tokyo prepares to welcome the world for the 2020 Olympics, there are construction sites all over the city but not always enough people to work them.
Enter HRP-5P. The snappily named, humanoid-shaped machine certainly has the look of a brawny builder, at 182cm tall and weighing in at 101 kilogrammes.
And HRP-5P is designed to carry out the same construction tasks that humans currently perform — even when left to its own devices.
HRP-5P “can use the same tools as a man, which is why we gave it the shape of a human — two legs, two arms and a head,” explained one of its creators, Kenji Kaneko from the National Advanced Industrial Science and Technology research facility.
Manufacturers were also promoting the latest in talking robots, which are becoming increasingly “intelligent” in their responses.
Sharp’s Robohon, a cute-as-pie humanoid robot standing only 20 centimeters tall, has been employed since last month to recount to tourists the history of the ancient Imperial capital of Kyoto — in English, Japanese or Chinese.
And very popular among Japanese visitors to the World Robot Summit was a robot replica of Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, one of the country’s top TV stars.
Created in collaboration with Japanese robotics master Hiroshi Ishiguro, the robot replicates the 85-year-old’s facial expressions almost perfectly but conversation with the machine hardly flows.
“The difficulty is being able to create fluid conversations with different people,” said Junji Tomita, engineer at telecoms giant NTT which is also involved in the project.
“The number of possible responses to an open question is so vast that it is very complicated,” admitted Tomita.