US says North Korean malware lurking in computer networks

In this May 15, 2017 photo, employees watch electronic boards monitoring possible ransomware cyberattacks at the Korea Internet and Security Agency in Seoul, South Korea. (AP)
Updated 15 November 2017
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US says North Korean malware lurking in computer networks

WASHINGTON: US authorities said Tuesday malware developed in North Korea is still lurking in many computer networks, giving hackers backdoor access to government, financial, automotive and media organizations.
An alert issued by the Department of Homeland Security warned of surreptitious activity by the so-called “Hidden Cobra” hacker group, also known by the name “Lazarus.”
US officials earlier this year blamed the group for a series of cyberattacks dating back to 2009, saying it was linked to the Pyongyang government.
In Tuesday’s warning, the DHS Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) said the hacker could still maintain a presence on victims’ networks with the aim of “further network exploitation.”
The report said some networks could be infected with the Volgmer “backdoor Trojan” or a remote administration tool known as Fallchill, which can give hackers complete control of a system.
It said FBI investigators suspect the Fallchill tool has been used since 2016 and Volgmer since 2013.
Private security analysts refer to Hidden Cobra as the “Lazarus” group of hackers linked to North Korea and likely behind a series of multimillion-dollar cyber thefts from banks around the world.
Some analysts say the Lazarus group may also have been behind the WannaCry ransomware outbreak earlier this year.
Hackers in the Hidden Cobra or Lazarus group have been active since 2009 and “have leveraged their capabilities to target and compromise a range of victims,” according to a DHS report in June.
“Some intrusions have resulted in the exfiltration of data while others have been disruptive in nature.”
DHS and FBI officials say the group “will continue to use cyber operations to advance their government’s military and strategic objectives,” according to the DHS report.
North Korea has denied orchestrating any cyberattacks, but the latest report comes amid rising tensions with the United States over the communist regime’s nuclear testing program.


Britain identifies Russians suspected of Skripal nerve attack — report

Updated 19 July 2018
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Britain identifies Russians suspected of Skripal nerve attack — report

LONDON: British police have identified several Russians who they believe were behind the nerve agent attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, the Press Association reported on Thursday, citing a source close to the investigation.
Skripal, a former colonel in Russian military intelligence who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain’s MI6 foreign spy service, and his daughter Yulia, were found unconscious on a public bench in the British city of Salisbury on March 4.
Britain blamed Russia for the poisonings and identified the poison as Novichok, a deadly group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet military in the 1970s and 1980s. Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack.
After analyzing closed-circuit television, police think several Russians were involved in the attack on the Skripals, who spent weeks in hospital before being spirited to a secret location, Press Association reported.
“Investigators believe they have identified the suspected perpetrators of the Novichok attack,” the unidentified source close to the investigation said, according to PA.
“They (the investigators) are sure they (the suspects) are Russian,” said the source, adding security camera images had been cross checked with records of people who entered the country.
A police spokesman declined to comment on the report.
After the attack on the Skripals, allies in Europe and the US sided with Britain’s view of the attack and ordered the biggest expulsion of Russian diplomats since the height of the Cold War.
Russia retaliated by expelling Western diplomats. Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement and accused the British intelligence agencies of staging the attack to stoke anti-Russian hysteria.
Mystery surrounds the attack.
The motive for attacking Skripal, an aged Russian traitor who was exchanged in a Kremlin-approved spy swap in 2010, is still unclear, as is the motive for using of an exotic nerve agent which has such overt links to Russia’s Soviet past.
Novichok put the Skripals into a coma, though after weeks in intensive care they were spirited to a secret location for their safety.
“My life has been turned upside down,” Yulia Skripal told Reuters in May. “Our recovery has been slow and extremely painful.”
A British woman, Dawn Sturgess, died this month after coming across a small bottle containing Novichok near the city of Salisbury where the Skripals were struck down. Her partner, Charlie Rowley, is still in hospital.
A British police officer was also injured by Novichok while attending to the Skripals in March.