“This advisory marks another step by the U.S. Government to counter the ongoing and criminal North Korean global cryptocurrency theft scheme targeting finance, energy, and other sectors,” said CISA Acting Executive Assistant Director of Cybersecurity Matt Hartman. “The FBI, Treasury, and CISA continue to assess the evolving cyber threat posed by North Korea, cybercriminals, and other nation-state actors and are committed to providing organizations timely information and mitigations to combat these threats.”
In the last year alone, these cyber actors attacked organizations for cryptocurrency theft, in more than 30 nations. These actors would undoubtedly see amended cryptocurrency trade applications as a way of bypassing North Korea's foreign sanctions—applications that allow them to gain access to cryptocurrency exchanges and loot cryptocurrency cash from victims' accounts.
The US government refers to the North Korean Government's malicious cyber activity as HIDDEN COBRA. Malware and indicators of compromise (IOCs) have been identified by the United States Government to facilitate North Korean cryptocurrency robbery, which is called "AppleJeus" by the Cyber Security community.
Although the malware was first found in 2018, North Korea has used several versions of AppleJeus. In the first place, HIDDEN COBRA actors used websites that seemed to host genuine cryptocurrency trading platforms, but these actors seem to be using other infection feature vectors, such as phishing, social networking, and social engineering, to get users to download the malware and to infect victims with AppleJeus. They are also using other infection vectors. Active AppleJeus Malware agencies in several areas, including energy, finances, government, industry, technology, and telecommunications, were targeted by HIDDEN COBRA actors.
Ever since it was discovered, several variants of AppleJeus were found in the wild. Most of them are supplied as relatively simple applications from attacker-controlled websites that resemble legitimate cryptocurrency exchange sites and firms.
“It is likely that these actors view modified cryptocurrency trading applications as a means to circumvent international sanctions on North Korea — the applications enable them to gain entry into companies that conduct cryptocurrency transactions and steal cryptocurrency from victim accounts,” states the report.
If consumers perceive that they have been affected by AppleJeus, the findings suggest victims creating new keys or transferring funds from corrupted crypto wallets, expelling hosts, running anti-malware tests on tainted devices, and notifying the FBI, CISA, or treasury.