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.

Threat Intelligence

4/11/2019
07:45 PM
50%
50%

New 'HOPLIGHT' Malware Appears in Latest North Korean Attacks, Say DHS, FBI

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security release malware analysis report, indicators of compromise for nine different executable files.

The North Korean government has rolled out a new malware variant, dubbed HOPLIGHT, targeting US companies and government agencies, the US Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned April 10. 

The US advisory and malware analysis report, or MAR, offered details on nine different executable files that use valid certificates and encrypted connections to download files to a compromised system and send information back to attacker-controlled servers.

Taken together, the malicious programs can read, write and move files, gather information on the targeted system, manipulate processes and services, and connect back to a remote host.

"Seven of these files are proxy applications that mask traffic between the malware and the remote operators," according to the MAR. "The proxies have the ability to generate fake TLS (transport layer security) handshake sessions using valid public SSL (secure sockets layer) certificates, disguising network connections with remote malicious actors."

The report also listed 15 Internet addresses associated with the malware's infrastructure.

"DHS and FBI are distributing this MAR to enable network defense and reduce exposure to North Korean government malicious cyber activity," the agencies stated in an advisory.

 

'A history of attacking with vindictiveness'

The malware is part of North Korea's cyber toolset which the US refers to under the codename HIDDEN COBRA.

Over the past decade, North Korea—officially known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)—has joined Iran, Russia, and China as a frequent cyber actor, with a particular focus on currency generation and attacks that support the DPRK's political aims. 

In 2014, attackers—identified as the North Korean group Lazarus—stole e-mail files, business-sensitive files, and e-mail accounts from Sony Pictures, purportedly in retribution for the movie studio's film, The Interview. In the years since the attack, the North Korean group, also referred to as APT38 by security firms, has focused on stealing money from financial institutions—targeting as much as $1.1 billion–by attacking the SWIFT banking system, using ransomware, such as WannaCry, to extort money from firms, and compromising systems with crypto-mining software to generate cryptocurrency.

Recent diplomatic talks between the United States and North Korea have not slowed the pace of DPRK's hackers, according to Adam Meyers, vice president of intelligence at CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity services firm.

"Interestingly, despite participating in diplomatic outreach, DPRK has remained active in both intelligence collection and currency-generation schemes," he said.

The latest analysis by the US government describes methods of detecting the HOPLIGHT toolset—an incremental improvement of North Korean cyber operations—using indicators of compromise (IOCs) and information about the infrastructure and code. 

"The fact that they are putting these out there is really cool," says Adam Kujawa, director of Malwarebytes Labs at Malwarebytes. "I'm glad that they are sharing this data, because with IOCs, people can identify what the threats are."

Among the details: One file contains a public secure sockets layer (SSL) certificate with a payload that appears to be encoded with a password or key, the MAR stated. Another file does not contain any certificates, but drops four files onto the target systems and repeatedly attempt to connect the servers at the listed IP addresses.

Kujawa notes that the analysis does not mention where the executables came from, whether found on a third-party server or on a compromised system. And with compilation dates stretching back to May 2017, some of the files are nearly two years old.

However, companies should take the threat seriously, says Chris Duvall, senior director of The Chertoff Group, a cybersecurity consultancy. North Korea has shown little hesitation in attacking companies or nation-state targets.

"There is a history of attacking with vindictiveness," he says. "Financial institutions and critical infrastructure and healthcare, in particular, should be on their toes and watch out for this."

 

Related Content

 

 

 

Join Dark Reading LIVE for two cybersecurity summits at Interop 2019. Learn from the industry's most knowledgeable IT security experts. Check out the Interop agenda here.

Veteran technology journalist of more than 20 years. Former research engineer. Written for more than two dozen publications, including CNET News.com, Dark Reading, MIT's Technology Review, Popular Science, and Wired News. Five awards for journalism, including Best Deadline ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
SOC 2s & Third-Party Assessments: How to Prevent Them from Being Used in a Data Breach Lawsuit
Beth Burgin Waller, Chair, Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Practice , Woods Rogers PLC,  12/5/2019
Deliver a Deadly Counterpunch to Ransomware Attacks: 4 Steps
Mathew Newfield, Chief Information Security Officer at Unisys,  12/10/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Our Endpoint Protection system is a little outdated... 
Current Issue
Navigating the Deluge of Security Data
In this Tech Digest, Dark Reading shares the experiences of some top security practitioners as they navigate volumes of security data. We examine some examples of how enterprises can cull this data to find the clues they need.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-19604
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-11
Arbitrary command execution is possible in Git before 2.20.2, 2.21.x before 2.21.1, 2.22.x before 2.22.2, 2.23.x before 2.23.1, and 2.24.x before 2.24.1 because a "git submodule update" operation can run commands found in the .gitmodules file of a malicious repository.
CVE-2019-14861
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-10
All Samba versions 4.x.x before 4.9.17, 4.10.x before 4.10.11 and 4.11.x before 4.11.3 have an issue, where the (poorly named) dnsserver RPC pipe provides administrative facilities to modify DNS records and zones. Samba, when acting as an AD DC, stores DNS records in LDAP. In AD, the default permiss...
CVE-2019-14870
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-10
All Samba versions 4.x.x before 4.9.17, 4.10.x before 4.10.11 and 4.11.x before 4.11.3 have an issue, where the S4U (MS-SFU) Kerberos delegation model includes a feature allowing for a subset of clients to be opted out of constrained delegation in any way, either S4U2Self or regular Kerberos authent...
CVE-2019-14889
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-10
A flaw was found with the libssh API function ssh_scp_new() in versions before 0.9.3 and before 0.8.8. When the libssh SCP client connects to a server, the scp command, which includes a user-provided path, is executed on the server-side. In case the library is used in a way where users can influence...
CVE-2019-1484
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-10
A remote code execution vulnerability exists when Microsoft Windows OLE fails to properly validate user input, aka 'Windows OLE Remote Code Execution Vulnerability'.