Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

4/5/2017
02:15 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Matching Wits with a North Korea-Linked Hacking Group

Skilled 'Bluenoroff' arm of infamous Lazarus hacking team behind Bangladesh Bank heist and Sony attacks actively resists investigators on its trail, Kaspersky Lab says.

KASPERSKY SECURITY ANALYST SUMMIT 2017 – St. Martin – Even after global financial messaging service provider SWIFT began the process of hardening its systems to prevent another Bangladesh Bank-type heist, the Lazarus hacking group behind the original attack managed to get past the new security barriers in other attack attempts against other banks.

"SWIFT added a layer of integrity-checking, and they [the attackers] tampered with it," says Costin Raiu, head of the global research and analysis team at Kaspersky Lab. After SWIFT further locked down the transaction process, Lazarus came back again and tampered with memory protections, he says.

Lazarus is the aggressive hacking group believed to have engineered the 2014 epic destructive Sony Pictures Entertainment attacks, and identified by the FBI as a North Korean nation-state group. These days it has much larger aspirations as demonstrated by its $81 million cyber heist of Bangladesh Bank. According to new research revealed here this week by Kaspersky Lab, the bank heist, as well as a wave of other attack attempts on banks worldwide, is the handiwork of an arm of Lazarus with special skills and the main goal of stealing money.

Kaspersky Lab calls this subgroup Bluenoroff, a unit that works as part of the larger Lazarus organization and continues to target banks as well as casinos and even Bitcoin operators. This A-team has experienced reverse-engineering and forensics expertise, according to the researchers.

"What is scary is they move so quickly," Raiu says. "The moment they understand you are hunting for their tools they started password-protecting all tools and locking them down with strong encryption. You cannot analyze a tool unless you know the password."

Raiu says there must be thousands of hackers in Lazarus. "They have an incredible stream and flood of tools. Other APT groups use the same tools for years. These guys have a new tool for every target," he says. "They are constantly improving an getting better at going after more and more targets."

Matching Wits
Kaspersky's investigators have matched wits with Bluenoroff. "They know how we go after them and they actively resist," says Vitaly Kamluk, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. For example, Bluenoroff masks its malicious dropper code inside an encrypted container so investigators can't see it, but Kamluk says his team ultimately was able to get access to secret passwords.

That type of security by the group is a far cry from earlier attacks from purported North Korean nation-state attackers, who were best known for more rudimentary backdoors and processes, notes Kamluk, who stopped short of confirming that North Korea is the attacker here. "It's definitely related to North Korea, but we can't say with true confidence that it is."

Kaspersky Lab several months ago found "patient zero" at Bangladesh Bank and traced the infection to a government regulatory website that dropped malware onto the victim's machine. By keeping mum on that finding over the past few months, the researchers were able to gather their newest intel on Bluenoroff after the group made a rare slip-up and left behind traces of their activity on a victim server.

That led researchers to find communications from an IP address in North Korea after the attackers made a rare slip-up. BAE Systems in its investigation of Lazarus also has seen the same IP address out of North Korea.

Kaspersky Lab, meanwhile, found the malware from the group as far back as December 2015 on machines in financial institutions, casinos, and financial-investment software developers, in Korea, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Poland, Iraq, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Uruguay, Gabon, Thailand, and other countries.

The Kaspersky researchers were able to detect and stop Bluenoroff attacks on a bank in Vietnam as well as one in Europe, as the group was actively targeting financial institutions in the wake of the Bangladesh Bank incident.

Dries Watteyne, head of customer security intelligence at SWIFT, said in a presentation here this week that the Bangladesh Bank attack was a "watershed event" for SWIFT. "They had sophisticated knowledge of the bank application" and bypassed transaction-verification checks and deleted their fraudulent payment instructions and modified SWIFT messages, he said.

SWIFT has since implemented a new customer security program aimed at stronger fraud detection and more secure transaction processes. "We're hardening our software and using big data in our central database to detect earlier [any] potential fraud, he said. SWIFT will release its new updated security controls this month for member banks, he said.

How Bluenoroff Hacks
Meanwhile, according to Kaspersky's new research, Bluenoroff's MO works like this: the attackers breach a system inside the bank via a watering hole attack using an exploit on a legitimate financial industry website, or remotely exploit a system with malware. The attackers then hop to other bank computers and install backdoors that allow them to move about freely and conduct reconnaissance on the bank, studying its network and systems architecture and locating key targets such as authentication information and domain controllers.

Once they have the lay of the land, they drop custom malware that can sneak past security software or measures in financial applications. That's when they start processing rogue transactions and stealing money.

Bluenoroff appears to have gone dormant for now, which Kaspersky believes is a sign that they are regrouping and creating new attack tools.

Check out the two-day Dark Reading Cybersecurity Crash Course at Interop ITX, May 15 & 16, where Dark Reading editors and some of the industry's top cybersecurity experts will share the latest data security trends and best practices

Related Content:

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
vinderofficial
50%
50%
vinderofficial,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/10/2017 | 5:52:59 AM
SSC Exam Calendar 2017
Staff Selection Commission Board has recently released a notification for the latest Exam Calendar for the year 2017. All the exam will be conducted through the SSC Exam Calendar 2017.

SSC Exam Calendar 2017-18

How Attackers Infiltrate the Supply Chain & What to Do About It
Shay Nahari, Head of Red-Team Services at CyberArk,  7/16/2019
US Mayors Commit to Just Saying No to Ransomware
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  7/16/2019
The Problem with Proprietary Testing: NSS Labs vs. CrowdStrike
Brian Monkman, Executive Director at NetSecOPEN,  7/19/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Building and Managing an IT Security Operations Program
As cyber threats grow, many organizations are building security operations centers (SOCs) to improve their defenses. In this Tech Digest you will learn tips on how to get the most out of a SOC in your organization - and what to do if you can't afford to build one.
Flash Poll
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
Your enterprise's cyber risk may depend upon the relationship between the IT team and the security team. Heres some insight on what's working and what isn't in the data center.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-12551
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-22
In SweetScape 010 Editor 9.0.1, improper validation of arguments in the internal implementation of the Memcpy function (provided by the scripting engine) allows an attacker to overwrite arbitrary memory, which could lead to code execution.
CVE-2019-12552
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-22
In SweetScape 010 Editor 9.0.1, an integer overflow during the initialization of variables could allow an attacker to cause a denial of service.
CVE-2019-3414
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-22
All versions up to V1.19.20.02 of ZTE OTCP product are impacted by XSS vulnerability. Due to XSS, when an attacker invokes the security management to obtain the resources of the specified operation code owned by a user, the malicious script code could be transmitted in the parameter. If the front en...
CVE-2019-10102
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-22
tcpdump.org tcpdump 4.9.2 is affected by: CWE-126: Buffer Over-read. The impact is: May expose Saved Frame Pointer, Return Address etc. on stack. The component is: line 234: "ND_PRINT((ndo, "%s", buf));", in function named "print_prefix", in "print-hncp.c". Th...
CVE-2019-10102
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-22
aubio 0.4.8 and earlier is affected by: null pointer. The impact is: crash. The component is: filterbank. The attack vector is: pass invalid arguments to new_aubio_filterbank. The fixed version is: after commit eda95c9c22b4f0b466ae94c4708765eaae6e709e.