The North Korea-linked state-sponsored hacking group Lazarus has started to target the IT supply chain in recent attacks, according to cybersecurity firm Kaspersky.
As part of the observed attacks, the group used an updated DeathNote malware cluster, which includes a slightly modified version of BLINDINGCAN, a piece of malware that the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) associated with the group.
A new variant of COPPERHEDGE, which Lazarus has been using for at least two years, was also used in these attacks.
The updated malware cluster was used in attacks against a “South Korean think-tank and an IT asset monitoring solution vendor,” Kaspersky said in its quarterly APT trends report.
As part of the first incident, the Lazarus group compromised a legitimate South Korean security software to build an infection chain and deploy their malicious payload, while the second attack started with the targeting of an asset monitoring solutions developer in Latvia.
The Racket downloader, signed with a stolen certificate, was used as part of the infection chain. The hacking group compromised vulnerable web servers and deployed on them scripts that allowed them to control the malicious implants.
Over the past several months, Kaspersky also observed Lazarus targeting the defense industry with the MATA malware framework, for cyber-espionage purposes. The group previously used MATA for various purposes, including for information theft and ransomware delivery.
The attacks employed a multi-stage infection chain in which a downloader was used to fetch additional malware from the command and control (C&C) server. Lazarus updated the MATA framework for this campaign and also used a legitimate but stolen digital certificate to sign some of its components.
“Through this research, we discovered a stronger connection between MATA and the Lazarus group, including the fact that the downloader malware fetching MATA malware showed ties to TangoDaiwbo, which we had previously attributed to the Lazarus group,” Kaspersky said.
Active since at least 2009 and also referred to as Hidden Cobra, Lazarus is believed to have orchestrated multiple high-profile attacks. In 2020, the group targeted COVID-19 research, including vaccine maker Pfizer, and members of the security research community.
“This APT group is not the only one seen using supply chain attacks. In the past quarter we have also tracked such attacks carried out by SmudgeX and BountyGlad. When carried out successfully, supply chain attacks can cause devastating results, affecting much more than one organization – something we saw clearly with the SolarWinds attack last year. With threat actors investing in such capabilities, we need to stay vigilant and focus defense efforts on that front,” said Kaspersky researcher Ariel Jungheit.