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Global cyberattack intent on havoc
PARIS --- A cyberattack that
caused indiscriminate economic
damage around the world was ap-
parently designed to create maxi-
mum havoc in Russia's neighbour
and adversary Ukraine, security
While the rogue software used in
the attack was configured as extor-
tionate "ransomware," that may have
just been a ruse.
"It is clear that this was targeted
indiscriminately at Ukrainian busi-
nesses, and the Ukrainian govern-
ment," Jake Williams, president of the
security firm Rendition Infosec and a
former member of the U.S. National
Security Agency's elite cyberwarfare
group, told The Associated Press in
an online chat. "The 'ransomware'
component is just a smokescreen
(and a bad one)."
Ukraine in pain
Although the attack was global in its
reach, Ukraine bore the brunt. Com-
puters were disabled at banks, gov-
ernment agencies, energy companies,
supermarkets, railways and telecom-
munications providers. Many of these
organizations said they had recovered
by Thursday, although some experts
suspected that work was incomplete.
"There is still a lot of damage, es-
pecially in banks," said Victor Zhora,
CEO of the Kiev cybersecurity firm In-
foSafe. "ATMs are working (again) but
some bank operations are still limited."
He estimated damage in "the millions
of dollars, perhaps tens of millions."
And that's just in Ukraine. Micro-
soft said the malware hit at least 64
nations, including Russia, Germany
and the United States. "I expect that
we will see additional fallout from this
is the coming days," said Williams.
In Ukraine, suspicion immediately
fell on hackers affiliated with Vladimir
Putin's regime, although there is no
direct, public evidence tying Russia to
the attack. Relations between the two
nations have been tense since Moscow
annexed the Crimean peninsula from
Ukraine in 2014. Pro-Russian fight-
ers are still battling the government
in eastern Ukraine.
Experts have also blamed pro-Rus-
sian hackers for major cyberattacks
on the Ukrainian power grid in 2015
and 2016, assaults that have turned
the eastern European nation into the
world's leading cyberwarfare testing
ground. A disruptive attack on the
nation's voting system ahead of 2014
national elections is also attributed
The Moscow connection
The malicious programme, which
researchers are calling NotPetya, in-
itially appeared to be ransomware.
Such malware locks up victims' files
by encrypting them, then holds them
hostage while demanding payment ---
usually in bitcoin, the hard-to-trace
But researchers said the culprits
would have been hard-pressed to
make money off the scheme. They
appear to have relied on a single email
address that was blocked almost im-
mediately and a single bitcoin account
that collected the relatively puny sum
Firms including Russia's anti-virus
Kaspersky Lab, said clues in the code
indicate that the programme's authors
would have been incapable of decrypt-
ing the data, further evidence that the
ransom demands were a smoke screen.
The timing was intriguing, too. The
attack came the same day as the assas-
sination of a senior Ukrainian military
intelligence officer and a day before a
national holiday celebrating the new
Ukrainian constitution signed after
the breakup of the Soviet Union.
"Everything being said so far does
point to Russia being a leading candi-
date for a suspect in this attack," said
Robert M. Lee, CEO of Dragos Inc. an
expert who has studied the attacks on
Ukraine's power grid.
What's most worrisome and repre-
hensible, said Lee, is that whoever was
behind the attack was unconcerned
about the indiscriminate, collateral
damage it caused --- much of it with-
in Russia itself. That's highly atypical
behaviour for nation-states.
Accounting for malware
Williams and other researchers said
all evidence indicates that NotPetya
was introduced via Ukrainian financial
software provider MeDoc. It is one of
just two companies in the eastern Eu-
ropean nation that supplies required
tax software, Zhora said.
Security experts believe MeDoc
was the unwitting victim of some-
thing akin to a "watering-hole at-
tack," where a malicious programme
surreptitiously planted at a popular
destination infects parties that visit.
The method was previously uses to
infect industrial control systems op-
erators through software updates in
a cyberespionage campaign dubbed
"Dragonfly" that was "widely attrib-
uted to Russia," said Williams.
MeDoc's user base is heavily fi-
nancial --- and includes multinational
corporations with offices in Ukraine.
NotPetya was cleverly engineered to
spread laterally within Windows net-
works and across the globe via private
network connections. Globally,dozens
of major corporations and government
agencies have been disrupted, includ-
ing FedEx subsidiary TNT.
Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-
Maersk, one of the global companies
hit hardest, said that most of its ter-
minals were running again, though
some are operating in a limited way
or more slowly than usual.
Problems have been reported across
the shippers' global business, from
Mobile, Alabama, to Mumbai in India.
At Mumbai's Jawaharlal Nehru Port,
several hundred containers could be
seen piled up at just two of more than
a dozen yards.
"The vessels are coming, the ships
are coming, but they are not able to take
the container because all the systems
are down," trading and clearing agent
Rajeshree Verma said. "We are actually
in a fix because of all this." (AP)
Nike to sell sneakers through Amazon
NEW YORK --- Nike said it will sell
some ofits sneakers through e-com-
merce giant Amazon, part of a plan
to make its swoosh-branded prod-
ucts available in more places online.
Shoppers can already find Nike
goods on Amazon, but they are sold by
third-party sellers. Nike said the new
partnership with Amazon will help it
better control its brand's presentation
on the site. Only a small selection of
shoes, clothing and accessories will be
available at first. But Nike may sell more
products on the platform if the test is
"We're in the early stages, but we
really look forward to evaluating the
results," said Nike CEO Mark Parker,
in a conference call late Thursday.
Earlier this month, Nike said it would
slash 1,400 jobs in a restructuring aimed
at selling more shoes directly online. It
already has deals with Amazon's rivals
in China and Europe, and Nike is mak-
ing its sneaker-selling apps available in
more parts of the world. In addition to
the Amazon deal, Nike also partnered
with Instagram to make it easier for users
to buy sneakers through the photo-shar-
Selling directly through Amazon
could give Nike greater access to mil-
lennials, analysts from Nomura said on
Friday. Those analysts also said Nike
may be able to better control prices on
Amazon and help reduce the number
of counterfeits being sold.
Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc. did
not respond to a request for comment
Nike also reported better-than-ex-
pected earnings and revenue for the
previous quarter on Thursday, and the
Beaverton, Oregon-based company said
it expects revenue to rise in the current
In this photo provided by Carnival Cruise Line, the Carnival Paradise passes the historic El Morro Castle in
Havana, Cuba, Friday. The arrival marked the first time a Carnival Cruise Line ship has ported in Cuba and is the
beginning of a series of a dozen Tampa, Florida-to-Cuba cruises scheduled for the ship through May 3, 2018.
About 2,400 passengers are aboard the 855-foot-long vessel for the inaugural voyage. PHOTO: SVEN CREUTZMANN
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