North Korea APT group targeted tens of UN Security Council officials

Pierluigi Paganini October 01, 2020

North Korea-linked APT group targeted UN Security Council officials over the past year, states a report from the United Nations organ.

A North-Korea-linked cyber espionage group has launched spear-phishing attacks aimed at compromising tens of officials from the United Nations Security Council.

The campaign targeted at least 28 UN officials, including at least 11 individuals representing six countries of the UN Security Council.

The campaign was disclosed in a UN report published at the end of August, the attacks took place this year and were spotted by an unnamed UN member state that reported it to the UN Security Council.

“According to information from another Member State, at least 28 individuals, including at least 11 officials from six members of the Security Council, became the targets of a spear-phishing campaign in 2020 which appeared to have been conducted by a Kimsuky advanced persistent threat group.” reads the report. “According to the information, these Democratic People’s Republic of Korea cyberactors launched a “security alert” – themed spear-phishing campaign in mid-March against Gmail accounts of the targeted individuals by placing malicious links in the email, utilizing a link to bypass spam blockers of the potential victims.”

The UN Security Council attributes the attack to the KimSuky APT group.

The Kimsuky APT group has been analyzed by several security teams, it was first spotted by Kaspersky researcher in 2013, recently its activity was detailed by ESTsecurity and by the malware researchers from Cybaze ZLab.

The campaign took place between March and April, threat actors attempted to compromise the Gmail accounts of UN officials by carrying out spear-phishing messages.

The spear-phishing messages were posing as UN security alerts or requests for interviews from journalists, a UN member also reported that the attacks were also launched through WhatsApp.

un security council attack

The emails were designed to look like UN security alerts or requests for interviews from reporters, both designed to convince officials to access phishing pages or run malware files on their systems.

The country which reported the Kimsuky attacks to the UN Security Council also said that similar campaigns were also carried out against members of its own government, with some of the attacks taking place via WhatsApp, and not just email.

The UN Security Council also published another report in March that detailed two other Kimsuky campaigns against its officials.

The first campaign targeted 38 email addresses belonging to members of the Security Council, while the second campaign targeted officials from China, France, Belgium, Peru, and South Africa in August.

“Cyberattacks against the Panel continued. An expert received a phishing email with a fake security alert from the United Nations, and multiple experts received an email in which the attacker spoofed as a member of the editing staff of a journal soliciting an article from experts. The Panel notes the similar cyberattacks against the expert community on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 2020.” concludes the report. “The Panel reiterates its view that cyberattacks, both past and ongoing, against such United Nations bodies as the Committee and the Panel, which are mandated to monitor the implementation of United Nations sanctions, amount to sanctions evasion, considering the persistent and highly disruptive nature of the attacks.”

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, North Korea)

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