Attacks/Breaches
4/10/2013
11:13 AM
50%
50%

North Korea Behind Bank Malware, South Korea Says

Evidence ties North Korean cyber-espionage unit to two waves of attacks on banks and broadcasters, South Korean officials say.

The March wiper malware attack that deleted data at South Korean banks and broadcasters was launched by a North Korean cyber-espionage unit, South Korean government officials claimed Wednesday.

"An analysis of cyber-terror access logs, malicious code and North Korean intelligence showed that the attack methods were similar to those used by the North's Reconnaissance General Bureau, which has led hacking attacks against South Korea," said Lee Seung-won, an official at South Korea's Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning, at a Wednesday press conference, reported South Korea's news agency, Yonhap.

The highly targeted malware attacks infected systems at South Korean banks Jeju, NongHyup and Shinhan, and their insurance affiliates, as well as South Korean broadcasters KBS, MBC and YTN. The attacks occurred on March 20, although systems in some cases had been previously infected with malware that included a logic bomb set for that date. As a result of the attacks, some online and mobile banking operations, as well as ATMs, temporarily froze. The attack is now believed to have compromised a total of 48,000 PCs, revising earlier estimates of 32,000 PCs.

[ Tension is escalating between North and South Korea. See South Korea Charges Alleged Hackers. ]

According to Yonhap, South Korean officials further disclosed Wednesday that a second wave of attacks on March 25 and 26 targeted 58 servers and 14 websites -- including sites operated by North Korean defectors -- that are opposed to the North Korean regime in Pyongyang headed by 30-year old Kim Jong-un.

The South Korean government probe further found that planning for the March 2013 malware campaign began in June 2012, if not earlier. "North Korean PCs first used local infiltration routes to test the attack orders in February" of this year, said Chun Kil-soo, head of the Korea Internet Security Center at the government's Korea Internet & Security Agency. For the attacks, at least six PCs were used to distribute 76 different types of malware, 18 of which had previously been seen only in cyber attacks launched by North Korea.

Officials said South Korean networks targeted in the March attacks had been directly accessed at least 13 times from systems known to be operated by North Korea. Of the 49 "infiltration routes" government investigators identified, 25 were via networks in South Korea and 24 were from outside the country -- and 22 of those foreign IP addresses had been used since 2009 by Pyongyang to launch cyber attacks.

In the wake of the malware attacks, a Korean Communications Commission official accused North Korea of launching at least some of the attacks via an IP address in China. But South Korean government officials quickly recanted that attribution, saying they'd misread a private IP address assigned to NongHyup bank as being registered in China, and that it was too early to assign blame.

In fact, at least one system at NongHyup was used to distribute the attacks, which deleted data from Windows, Unix and Linux systems. According to South Korean antivirus vendor AhnLab's Security Emergency Response Center (ASEC), at least some of the attacks were distributed via AhnLab's enterprise patch management software at the targeted sites, which attackers accessed using legitimate -- but stolen -- usernames and passwords. ASEC's research found that "once the attackers had access to the patch management system they used it to distribute the malware much like the system distributes new software and software updates."

South Korean officials have claimed that a North Korean cyber-warfare unit -- dubbed "No. 121" -- includes roughly 3,000 personnel who have been trained in malware development and network infiltration.

The results of South Korea's wiper malware probe were detailed on the same day that South Korea's foreign minister, Yun Byung-se, warned that North Korea had placed a mid-range Musudan ballistic missile on its east coast. "According to intelligence obtained by our side and the U.S., the possibility of a missile launch by North Korea is very high," Yun told a parliamentary hearing, saying a launch of one or more missiles could happen "any time from now." The Musudan missile is believed to have a range of 3,500 kilometers, meaning it could strike not only South Korea and Japan but also Guam.

In response to the missile repositioning, American and South Korean troops Wednesday increased their alert levels, reported The New York Times. On a related note, the White House earlier this month announced that an anti-missile system scheduled to be deployed in Guam in 2015 -- called Thaad, for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense -- would instead be deployed by the end of the month.

Easily overlooked vulnerabilities could put your data and business at risk. Also in the new, all-digital 10 Web Threats special issue of Dark Reading: How hackers compromised an iOS developers' website to exploit Java plug-in vulnerabilities and attack Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter. (Free with registration.)

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Computer Repair Whiteplains NY
50%
50%
Computer Repair Whiteplains NY,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/11/2013 | 3:03:38 PM
re: North Korea Behind Bank Malware, South Korea Says
It is time to sharpen the Internet blades against North Korea.
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2009-5027
Published: 2014-12-26
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: CVE-2010-2062. Reason: This candidate is a reservation duplicate of CVE-2010-2062. Notes: All CVE users should reference CVE-2010-2062 instead of this candidate. All references and descriptions in this candidate have been removed to pre...

CVE-2010-1441
Published: 2014-12-26
Multiple heap-based buffer overflows in VideoLAN VLC media player before 1.0.6 allow remote attackers to cause a denial of service (application crash) or possibly execute arbitrary code via a crafted byte stream to the (1) A/52, (2) DTS, or (3) MPEG Audio decoder.

CVE-2010-1442
Published: 2014-12-26
VideoLAN VLC media player before 1.0.6 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (invalid memory access and application crash) or possibly execute arbitrary code via a crafted byte stream to the (1) AVI, (2) ASF, or (3) Matroska (aka MKV) demuxer.

CVE-2010-1443
Published: 2014-12-26
The parse_track_node function in modules/demux/playlist/xspf.c in the XSPF playlist parser in VideoLAN VLC media player before 1.0.6 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (NULL pointer dereference and application crash) via an empty location element in an XML Shareable Playlist Format...

CVE-2010-1444
Published: 2014-12-26
The ZIP archive decompressor in VideoLAN VLC media player before 1.0.6 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (invalid memory access and application crash) or possibly execute arbitrary code via a crafted archive.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.