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Kaspersky Lab reports North Korean Hacker group Lazarus stealing cryptocurrencies using the Telegram messenger


A group of hackers calling themselves Lazarus modified their previous scheme to steal cryptocurrency which was used in 2018. Hackers use more effective tactics and act more carefully. According to Kaspersky Lab, now, not only users of the macOS operating system are at risk but also users of Windows.

Presumably, Lazarus hackers use malware that runs in memory and not on hard drives allowing it to remain undetected. The researchers believe that the group uses Telegram to spread the virus.

The new Lazarus attack was named Operation APpleJeus Sequel, which follows APpleJeus attack conducted in 2018. Principle of cryptocurrency theft remains the same as before: fake cryptocurrency companies are used to attract investors. The websites of these companies contain links to fraudulent

Telegram trading groups, through which malware that infects Windows computers is distributed.
Once the system is infected, attackers can gain remote access to it and steal the cryptocurrencies stored on the device. So far, researchers have been able to identify many victims of the new fraud across Europe and in China. A representative of Kaspersky Lab reports that it is known about the victims from Russia, China, Poland and the UK. At the same time, they include both individual traders and companies whose activities are related to cryptocurrency.

Kaspersky noted that currently, hackers from Lazarus have suspended their campaign using the messenger, but researchers suggested that in the future, attackers will use even more advanced methods.

Earlier, a closed UN report reported that North Korea finances the development of weapons through digital and Fiat currencies stolen from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges. Last fall, Group-IB said that a North Korean group of hackers stole $571 million in cryptocurrencies.

Malware Against Crypto-Currency Businesses; Microsoft and Apple are Targets Alike


“AppleJeus” operation was the first time “macOS” users were made victims by Lazarus. Herein, a manipulated application was used to target potential victims. Apparently, Lazarus used customized malware, especially for macOS users.

Per leading sources, the malware had been so fabricated that it released the current and the next-stage payload automatically without any manual actions required. For attacking Windows users a multi-stage infection procedure was fabricated.

Reportedly, compromising “crypto-currency” related business was the major objective of “AppleJeus” and Lazarus at large. The macOS malware employed the source course only to structure “macOS” installers. Allegedly, “QtBitcoinTrader” was used.

However, the hackers at Lazarus altered the macOS malware. For starters, it no more has an encryption/decryption network communication routine as per reports.

In another case, the .NET malware was disguised as Wallet updaters like “wfcwallet.com” and “www.chainfun365.com”. Herein, the multi-stage infection took place but in a different way.

Later on files of the likes of “rasext,dll” and “msctfp.dat” are uploaded onto the target’s system. Allegedly, the Remote Access Connection Manager was also into play.

Per sources, there was another case where a highly altered form of the macOS malware was at work. Similar to other cases, the fake website and application were being called by the attacker. The apparent differences as per reports in the attack are as follows:
o The malicious application was hosted via “GitHub”.
o The post-installation script of the macOS malware was different as well.
o This version used “ADVobfuscator” to hide its code.
o The author of this modified macOS malware utilized “Object-C” and not QT framework.


In a different attack, the post-install script was the same as the previous attack; the author here had used “SWIFT” for the development of the malware. The method of data collection was changed and then the conduct authentication began. According to sources, the “auth_signature and auth_timestamp” parameters were used to deliver the second payload. The current system time of the device is acquired by the malware and then it’s combined with the “12GWAPCT1F011S14” hard-coded string and an “MD5 hash” is created. The hash is used as the “auth_signature” parameter and the time is used as the value of the “auth_timestamp” parameter. These values can be reproduced as well and finally, the second payload is uploaded.

Apart from all the macOS cases, there was a Windows incident as well. Per sources, a version of the “UnionCryptoTrader” was found. Allegedly, the “Telegram messenger” was at play. The infection procedure was pretty much the same as one of the previous cases with an add-on. A final backdoor payload was done. This version showed numerous exchange rates for crypto-currency.

Reportedly, the Windows malware uploads the encrypted “msctfp.dat file” and loads all the configuration values. Later an extra command is executed as per the contents of the file. Finally, the malware communicates with the C2 server, a post request is sent.

Several parameters are sent and according to the response code from the C2 server, the “POST” request is sent through along with the encrypted data and a random value that could be used to identify individual victims.

Innumerable fake websites were found still in action. The fake websites were crypto-currency oriented but could easily be identified as fake if looked at with a keen eye.

Part 2 of the “AppleJeus” had its victims spread across, Poland, China, Russia, and the US with most of them related to businesses involving crypto-currency.

Lazarus group has been quite a matter of talk for a very long time. It especially continues to be a matter of concern for the cyber-world.

The AppleJeus and other malware that exist and would exist in the future are evolving by the hour. Crypto-currency associated businesses are the key and foremost objects of Lazarus and other threat actors and hence need to be more vigilant than ever.


Lazarus Hacking Group back with new hacking campaign targeting banks and bitcoin users

The North Korean Lazarus Hacking Group, which was believed to be behind the WannaCry ransomware attack last year, has returned with a new campaign targeting financial institutions and bitcoin users.

The new campaign, as discovered by the McAfee Advanced Threat Research (ATR) analysts and dubbed as “HaoBao”, was termed by McAfee as an “aggressive Bitcoin-stealing phishing campaign” that uses “sophisticated malware with long-term impact.”

It resumes Lazarus’ phishing emails, posed as job recruiters, from before but now targets global banks and bitcoin users.

It works by sending malicious documents as attachments to unsuspecting targets, who open the malicious document and unknowingly allow the malware to scan for Bitcoin activity, after which it establishes an implant for long-term data gathering on being successful.

According to the firm, McAfee ATR first discovered of the malware on January 15th, when they spotted a malicious document passed off as a job recruitment for a Business Development Executive at a multi-national bank based in Hong Kong.

More information can be found in a blog by McAfee regarding the campaign.

While the form of attack seems nothing new, the two-stage attack malware has surprised researchers.

“This campaign deploys a one-time data gathering implant that relies upon downloading a second stage to gain persistence,” said McAfee analyst Ryan Sherstobitoff. “The implants contain a hardcoded word ‘haobao’ that is used as a switch when executing from the Visual Basic macro.”

According to Sherstobitoff, the dropped implants have “never been seen before in the wild” and were not used in the last campaign either.

He believes that, because of a lack of solid regulations in respect to cryptocurrencies and the fact that sanctions against North Korea are difficult to enforce with digital currencies than with hard currency, such attacks will only grow — which could spell bad news for bitcoin users.

Aside from the link to the WannaCry attack, Lazarus is also believed to be linked to the Sony hack in 2014 and the attack on South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges last year.