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FBI fingers North Korea for two malware strains

'Joanap' and 'Brambul' harvest info about your systems and send it home

US CERT has issued a Technical Alert that says two strains of malware are tools of the North Korean government.

The Alert says that the United States’ Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) “identified IP addresses and other indicators of compromise (IOCs) associated with two families of malware used by the North Korean government.”

One of the malware strains is called “Joanap” and is said to be a two-stage malware that establishes peer-to-peer communications links “to manage botnets designed to enable other operations.” The alert says Joanap lets North Korea “exfiltrate data, drop and run secondary payloads, and initialize proxy communications on a compromised Windows device.”

The other malware is a Server Message Block (SMB) worm called “Brambul”.

This one’s a “dynamic link library file or a portable executable file often dropped and installed onto victims’ networks by dropper malware.”

“When executed, the malware attempts to establish contact with victim systems and IP addresses on victims’ local subnets. If successful, the application attempts to gain unauthorized access via the SMB protocol (ports 139 and 445) by launching brute-force password attacks using a list of embedded passwords. Additionally, the malware generates random IP addresses for further attacks.”

If the malware gets in, it “communicates information about victim’s systems to HIDDEN COBRA actors using malicious email addresses. This information includes the IP address and host name—as well as the username and password—of each victim’s system. HIDDEN COBRA actors can use this information to remotely access a compromised system via the SMB protocol.”

“HIDDEN COBRA” is the USA’s code for North Korean cyber-ops.

The Alert says both Joanap and Brambul have been active since 2009 and have targeted “multiple victims globally and in the United States—including the media, aerospace, financial, and critical infrastructure sectors.”

The Alert includes downloadable lists of IP addresses with which the malware communicates, to help you block them. It also offers generic advice on stopping the malware – keep patches up to date, run A-V, turn off SMB, don’t allow unknown executables – to prevent infection.

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