Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied Moscow was behind a global ransomware attack that hit 150 countries. He backed up Microsoft's assertion that the source of the virus was American intelligence services.
The Russian president told reporters in Beijing on Monday that his country had nothing to do with the massive ransomware cyberattack that struck banks, transport, hospitals and factories around the world on Friday and over the weekend.
Instead, he blamed the US intelligence services for being the initial source of the virus, which hit hundreds of thousands of computers in 150 countries.
Putin's comments backed up a blog post by Microsoft President Brad Smith over the weekend. Smith criticized US intelligence agencies, including the CIA and National Security Agency, for "stockpiling" software code that can be used by hackers.
Putin cautions West
Putin warned that such software can later be used for malicious means, adding "once they're let out of the lamp, genies of this kind ... can do damage to their authors and creators."
"So this question should be discussed immediately on a serious political level and a defense needs to be worked out from such phenomena," the Russian president added.
Public transport users in Germany saw the ransom demands appear on information screens at railway stations
Putin said there was "no significant damage" to Russian institutions but said the attack was "worrisome" and called for immediate talks "on a serious political level."
In the past, the US has accused Moscow of mounting several cyberattacks, and blamed Russian hackers for allegedly influencing last year's US presidential election.
The EU's police agency Europol on Monday gave a cautious all-clear following what it said was an "unprecedented" attack, amid reports of fresh incidents in Asia on Monday.
Several security experts warned that the virus was likely to wreak more havoc over the next few weeks.
The malicious software encrypted data stored on hundreds of thousands of computers, while on-screen messages ordered users to pay a ransom of $300 to $600 (273 to 546 euros) in the internet currency Bitcoin.
As well as Britain's National Health Service, Deutsche Bahn train information screens were infected, along with Renault and Nissan car factories in Europe. The Spanish phone company Telefonica and US courier FedEX were also affected.
The virus used vulnerability in the Windows operating system. Microsoft said it had released a security update in March but that many computers "remained unpatched globally." The IT giant said the attack should be a "wake-up call" for governments worldwide.
But Germany's interior ministry hit back, saying that software companies needed to do their own homework, rather than blame governments for security flaws.
Interior ministry spokesman Tobias Plate said "someone who doesn't do their homework trying to make others responsible for not pointing out this homework needs to be done seems to me to mix up cause and effect."
Last year, Germany published proposals to hold IT companies liable for security flaws.
mm/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)