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

7/22/2020
03:55 PM
50%
50%

North Korea's Lazarus Group Developing Cross-Platform Malware Framework

The APT group, known for its attack on Sony Pictures in 2014, has created an "advanced malware framework" that can launch and manage attacks against systems running Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

The Lazarus Group, an advanced persistent threat (APT) group linked to North Korea, has developed an "advance malware framework" that has been used to launch and manage attacks against Windows, MacOS, and Linux systems in at least a dozen organizations, according to an analysis published by security firm Kaspersky on July 22.

The framework has been used against victims in Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, Poland, and Turkey, according to Kaspersky. The attacks have focused on e-commerce businesses, Internet service providers, and software developers. 

The fact that the group has created a single framework to handle compromises across operating systems indicates a significant amount of resources have been invested in the toolset, says Yury Namestnikov, a security expert at Kaspersky.

"It's not a common thing to implement a consistent modular framework that supports all popular operating systems," he says. "The orchestrator is designed in a way that it can load up to 15 plug-ins at the same time. Plug-ins that are known to us gives general-purpose backdoor functionality."

Operating for more than a decade, the Lazarus group — also known as Hidden Cobra — is a well-known group linked to North Korea and credited with a significant number of major attacks. For example, the attack on Sony Pictures in November 2014, which resulted in the release of confidential data, prerelease movies, and copies of scripts, has been credited to the group. In 2019, the United States imposed further sanctions against North Korea for its hacking and cyber-espionage activities.

Unlike many nation-state groups, North Korean cyber-espionage operations often have a strong financial goal. In 2017, researchers linked Lazarus with the WannaCry ransomware worm that caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage worldwide. Most recently, Lazarus has been linked to credit-card skimming, stealing credit-card data from the websites of online retailers.

In the latest development, the Lazarus group created a framework, dubbed MATA, that has been used to steal customer databases and distribute ransomware, according to Kaspersky. 

"This series of attacks indicates that Lazarus was willing to invest significant resources into developing this toolset and widening the reach of organizations targeted – particularly in hunting for both money and data," said Seongsu Park, a senior security researcher for the company, in a statement sent to Dark Reading. 

Kaspersky was able to identified about a dozen companies that appeared to be infected with the MATA framework since 2018. The main management component, or orchestrator, is called MataNet by the developers, and each module includes the prefix "mata_", Kaspersky says.

The framework appears to use code from an open source proxy server that Lazarus has further developed. Among other features, the framework appears architected to work on connected Linux devices, raising the possibility that Internet of Things devices could be on the list of future targets.

"Regarding motive of the actor behind the attack, from one victim we identified one of their intentions," Kaspersky's Namestnikov says. "After deploying MATA malware and its plug-ins, the actor attempted to find the victim's databases and execute several database queries to acquire customer lists."

The MataNet orchestrator uses Transport Layer Security 1.2 (TLS1.2) to encrypt communications. Some components of the software were found on legitimate software distribution sites, indicating that such services may be used to allow infected machines to download additional software modules. 

Because of similarities in the code, file names, and global configuration data between MATA and other Lazarus-attributed attacks, Kaspersky considers the framework to be the work of the North Korean group. 

While the bespoke framework allows the group a great deal of flexibility, the cyber-espionage actors are not above using cybercriminals' tools as well. In late 2019, the Lazarus Group became an early customer of the Trickbot cybercriminal group, which apparently sold access to high-value networks through a tool known as Anchor.

Related Content:

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
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 10/27/2020
Are You One COVID-19 Test Away From a Cybersecurity Disaster?
Alan Brill, Senior Managing Director, Cyber Risk Practice, Kroll,  10/21/2020
Botnet Infects Hundreds of Thousands of Websites
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  10/22/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world -- and enterprise computing -- on end. Here's a look at how cybersecurity teams are retrenching their defense strategies, rebuilding their teams, and selecting new technologies to stop the oncoming rise of online attacks.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-5144
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-28
SonicWall Global VPN client version 4.10.4.0314 and earlier allows unprivileged windows user to elevate privileges to SYSTEM through loaded process hijacking vulnerability.
CVE-2020-5145
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-28
SonicWall Global VPN client version 4.10.4.0314 and earlier have an insecure library loading (DLL hijacking) vulnerability. Successful exploitation could lead to remote code execution in the target system.
CVE-2020-27956
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-28
An Arbitrary File Upload in the Upload Image component in SourceCodester Car Rental Management System 1.0 allows the user to conduct remote code execution via admin/index.php?page=manage_car because .php files can be uploaded to admin/assets/uploads/ (under the web root).
CVE-2020-27957
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-28
The RandomGameUnit extension for MediaWiki through 1.35 was not properly escaping various title-related data. When certain varieties of games were created within MediaWiki, their names or titles could be manipulated to generate stored XSS within the RandomGameUnit extension.
CVE-2020-16140
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-27
The search functionality of the Greenmart theme 2.4.2 for WordPress is vulnerable to XSS.