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Mark Schiefelbein / AP

U.S. intelligence firm Flashpoint claims with "high confidence" that the notes accompanying the ransomware attack were written by Chinese-speaking hackers from southern China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Singapore. The notes, sent out in 28 different languages, warned users they couldn't access their data unless they paid a ransom in an attack this month that hit 150 countries, called the WannaCry attack.

Why this matters: The group that launched the attack is suspected to be a North Korean hacker group. This either adds a hitch to that suspicion or means the North Koreans have gone to great lengths to cast doubt on their identity by forging Korean into Chinese.

The language analysis: Nearly all of the notes were translated using Google Translate, Flashpoint writes. Only three (the English notes and two different versions of Chinese notes) are likely to have been drafted by a human with knowledge of the language, but only the Chinese notes indicate they were written by someone with fluent knowledge of the language.

Two more snags to finding who is responsible for the attack:

  1. TheShadowBrokers, the group that enabled the hack by posting the loophole online, has emptied out its bitcoin account, worth $24,000, a surprising move since this could identify the group. However, the group distributed the bitcoins to multiple addresses to mask the transaction, disrupting chances of identification.
  2. Up next, the group has offered to distribute more hacking tools for about $24,000 and is accepting Zcash, another digital currency much like bitcoin, but which is much harder to track.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 4: Trump turns on Barr

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Drew Angerer, Pool/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 4: Trump torches what is arguably the most consequential relationship in his Cabinet.

Attorney General Bill Barr stood behind a chair in the private dining room next to the Oval Office, looming over Donald Trump. The president sat at the head of the table. It was Dec. 1, nearly a month after the election, and Barr had some sharp advice to get off his chest. The president's theories about a stolen election, Barr told Trump, were "bullshit."

In photos: Protests outside fortified capitols draw only small groups

Armed members of the far-right extremist group the Boogaloo Bois near the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing on Jan. 17. About 20 protesters showed up, AP notes. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Small groups of protesters gathered outside fortified statehouses across the U.S. over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The big picture: Some protests attracted armed members of far-right extremist groups but there were no reports of clashes, as had been feared. The National Guard and law enforcement outnumbered demonstrators, as security was heightened around the U.S. to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots, per AP.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
8 hours ago - World

China's economy grows 6.5% in Q4 as country rebounds from coronavirus

A technician installs and checks service robots to be be used for food and medicine delivery in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province, China, on Sunday. Photo: Hu Xuejun/VCG via Getty Images

China's economy grew at a 6.5% pace in the final quarter of 2020, the national statistics bureau announced Monday local time, topping off a year in which it grew in three of four quarters and by 2.3% in total.

Why it matters: No other major economy managed positive growth in 2020. Although the COVID-19 pandemic was first detected in China, the country got the virus under control and became one of the main positive drivers of the global economy even as the rest of the world was largely under lockdown.