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South Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute Confirms Cyberattack

The South Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) has confirmed that an unknown third-party gained unauthorized access to its systems.

In the cyberattack, which took place last month, the adversary exploited a vulnerability in a VPN system used within the research institute’s environment, KAERI said Friday. In response to the attack, the VPN was updated and the attackers’ IP address blocked.

“Currently, the Atomic Energy Research Institute is investigating the subject of the hacking and the amount of damage,” the institute also said.

South Korean news outlet Sisa Journal broke the news about the hack, but KAERI initially denied the claims. On Friday, the research institute apologized for that.

The attack appears to have been carried out by the North Korea-linked threat actor known as Kimsuky, Black Banshee, Velvet Chollima, and Thallium, which is believed to have been active since at least 2012.

Mainly targeting government agencies, human rights activists, and think tanks in South Korea, the adversary was also observed hitting targets in the United States, Europe, and Russia.

The investigation into the KAERI cyberattack revealed the use of several IP addresses, including one that was previously associated with Kimsuky assaults, the research institute said at a press conference, The Record reports.

Furthermore, the incident falls in line with Kimsuky activity that Malwarebytes detailed at the beginning of the month, which involved attacks against multiple South Korean entities, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Nuclear Security Officer.

“Beside targeting [the] government, we also have observed that Kimsuky collected information about universities and companies in South Korea including the Seoul National University and Daishin financial security company as well as KISA [Korean Internet & Security Agency],” Malwarebytes said.

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