North Korea-linked Lazarus group targets cybersecurity experts with Trojanized IDA Pro

Pierluigi Paganini November 15, 2021

North Korea-linked APT Lazarus targets security researchers using a trojanized pirated version of the popular IDA Pro reverse engineering software.

ESET researchers reported that the North Korea-linked Lazarus APT group is targeting cyber security community with a trojanized pirated version of the popular IDA Pro reverse engineering software.

Threat actors bundled the IDA Pro 7.5 software with two malicious components.

“Attackers replaced win_fw.dll, an internal component that is executed during IDA Pro installation, with a malicious DLL. The malicious win_fw.dll creates a Windows scheduled task that starts a second malicious component, idahelper.dll, from the IDA plugins folder.” reads the tweet published by ESET.

IDA Pro Lazarus APT

IDA Pro is widely used by malware researchers to translate machine-executable code into assembly language source code for purpose of debugging and reverse engineering. 

Upon executing the installer, the idahelper.dll attempts to download and execute a next-stage payload from https://www[.]devguardmap[.]org/board/board_read.asp?boardid=01.

Experts pointed out that the domain was involved in a past campaign carried out by the APT group and aimed at security professionals. In March, researchers from Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) reported that North Korea-linked hackers are targeting security researchers via social media.

Google researchers discovered that threat actors also created a website for a fake cybersecurity firm named SecuriElite offering offensive security services, including pentests, security assessments, and exploits.

The activity of the Lazarus APT group surged in 2014 and 2015, its members used mostly custom-tailored malware in their attacks. This threat actor has been active since at least 2009, possibly as early as 2007, and it was involved in both cyber espionage campaigns and sabotage activities aimed to destroy data and disrupt systems.

The group is considered responsible for the massive WannaCry ransomware attack, a string of SWIFTattacks in 2016, and the Sony Pictures hack.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Operation Cyclone)

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