US government blames North Korea for malicious cyber activity

The US government has identified more than 85 compromised networks. The addresses are being distributed along with suggested remediation actions.

The Trump administration issued a fresh warning on 29 May about malicious North Korean cyber activity, as that nation’s leader dispatched a top adviser to New York to prepare for a possible summit on its nuclear arsenal.

US government blames North Korea for malicious cyber activity

Kim Yong Chol, a former four-star army general and military intelligence chief. Reuters.

The technical alert from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security highlighted two pieces of malware said to have been used to target US infrastructure and aerospace, financial and media companies for at least nine years to steal information and remotely manipulate networks.

In recent years, the United States has accused North Korea of launching a slew of cyberattacks, and it wasn’t immediately clear if there was any significance to the timing of the latest warning, which came as President Donald Trump is eying nuclear talks with leader Kim Jong Un.

In preparation for the summit, Kim Yong Chol, a former four-star army general and military intelligence chief, is set to meet in New York with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — a rare visit to the US by a high-level North Korean official. Kim Yong Chol is suspected to have been behind a 2014 hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment over the movie “The Interview,” a satire about a plot to assassinate the North Korean leader.

The alert described two pieces of malware: a remote access tool known as Joanap and a server message block worm commonly known as Brambul. The malware is reportedly being used as part of the North Korean government’s cyber activities, called “Hidden Cobra.”

“FBI has high confidence that Hidden Cobra actors are using IP (internet protocol) addresses to maintain a presence on victims’ networks and enable network exploitation,” the alert said.

“Hidden Cobra actors have likely been using both Joanap and Brambul malware since at least 2009 to target multiple victims globally and in the United States, including the media, aerospace, financial and critical infrastructure sectors.”

The US government has identified more than 85 compromised networks. The addresses are being distributed along with suggested remediation actions. Officials urged private-sector firms to immediately report any activity associated with the malware to the Department of Homeland Security National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center or the FBI Cyber Watch.

Late last year, the US said it had determined that North Korea was behind the WannaCry ransomware attack that infected hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide and crippled parts of Britain’s National Health Service. The US said it blamed North Korea based on evidence and information confirmed by other governments and private companies, including the United Kingdom and Microsoft. North Korean officials said it was a baseless provocation.

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