Symantec blames North Korean Lazarus APT group for recent attacks on banks

Pierluigi Paganini March 18, 2017

Further investigation on the attacks against Polish banks allowed Symantec to determine that North Korean Lazarus APT group was behind recent attacks on banks.

According to malware researchers at Symantec, the North Korean APT group Lazarus was likely behind a recent string of cyber attacks against organizations in 31 countries. According to Symantec, the Lazarus APT was behind high-profile attacks on Bangladesh Bank, Sony and South Korea,

The activity of the Lazarus Group surged in 2014 and 2015, its members used mostly custom-tailored malware in their attacks and experts that investigated on the crew consider it highly sophisticated.

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.

Experts at Symantec collected evidence demonstrating the Lazarus APT group was behind the campaign that leveraged on a “loader” software used to stage attacks by installing other malicious programs.

“We are reasonably certain” Lazarus behind the attacks, Symantec researcher Eric Chien said in an interview with the Reuters Agency.

Both US and South Korea governments are blaming Pyongyang for the attacks, but the North Korean government has denied allegations it was behind the hacks.

Symantec did not identify the organizations that were targeted in the last wave of attacks, it is not clear is Lazarus APT group has stolen money from the victims.

According to the experts from the security firm, there was a significant escalation of the Lazarus APT group, it used more sophisticated techniques targeting than in previous cyber attacks.

Experts at Symantec analyzed the hacking campaign launched last month by the Lazarus Group. The investigations started after Polish banks had been infected with a sophisticated strain of malware.

Polish banks confirmed their systems were infected with a malware after their staff visited the site of the Polish Financial Supervision Authority.

In order to avoid spreading the malware, the authorities took the decision to shut down the entire network at the Polish Financial Supervision Authority (KNF) “in order to secure evidence.”

Both security firms BAE Systems and Symantec started their investigation on the attacks. According to Symantec, the threat actor behind the attack is the same that targeted financial organizations in 31 countries since at least October 2016.

According to Symantec, the Polish website used to target the Polish banks delivered a strain of malware known to be part of the toolkit of the Lazarus Group.

The attackers exploited “watering holes” in order to infect the machines of a specific audience with previously unknown malware.

“Symantec has blocked attempts to infect customers in Poland, Mexico and Uruguay by the same exploit kit that infected the Polish banks. Since October, 14 attacks against computers in Mexico were blocked, 11 against computers in Uruguay, and two against computers in Poland.” reads the analysis published by Symantec.

At the time, Symantec said it had “weak evidence” to blame the Lazarus APT, but now the data gathered by the experts confirm the involvement of the group.

The malicious code was instructed to infect visitors whose IP address showed they were from 104 specific organizations in 31 countries.

The largest number of victims were in Poland, followed by the United States, and Mexico.

Lazarus APT

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Lazarus APT, cybercrime)

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