Security Alert: HIDDEN COBRA – North Korea DDoS Botnet Infrastructure

Alert (TA17-17-164A) was released by US-CERT, and there have been reports this week from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this week about multiple vulnerabilities with Microsoft products, including the Windows operating system, and a threat by a group that the FBI and DHS labels as “Hidden Cobra”. Both relate to the same type of vulnerability that allowed WannaCry to spread. Importantly, simply installing the Microsoft patches will not necessarily protect form “Hidden Cobra” since they use a wide range of vulnerabilities. DHS states “Hidden Cobra” targets are “…the media, aerospace, financial, and critical infrastructure sectors in the United States and globally”.

Hidden Cobra – North Korea DDoS Attack

Working with U.S. Government partners, DHS and FBI identified Internet Protocol (IP) addresses associated with a malware variant, known as DeltaCharlie, used to manage North Korea’s distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) botnet infrastructure. This alert contains indicators of compromise (IOCs), malware descriptions, network signatures, and host-based rules to help network defenders detect activity conducted by the North Korean government. The U.S. Government refers to the malicious cyber activity by the North Korean government as HIDDEN COBRA.

If users or administrators detect the custom tools indicative of HIDDEN COBRA, these tools should be immediately flagged, reported to the DHS National Cybersecurity Communications and Integration Center (NCCIC) or the FBI Cyber Watch (CyWatch), and given highest priority for enhanced mitigation. This alert identifies IP addresses linked to systems infected with DeltaCharlie malware and provides descriptions of the malware and associated malware signatures. DHS and FBI are distributing these IP addresses to enable network defense activities and reduce exposure to the DDoS command-and-control network. FBI has high confidence that HIDDEN COBRA actors are using the IP addresses for further network exploitation.

Who the heck is Hidden Cobra? You probably already know about these cyber actors who are usually referred to as the Lazarus Group. Back in 2014 when the hackers targeted Sony Pictures Entertainment, the group was publicly referring to itself as Guardians of the Peace.

How You Can Protect Yourself and Your Organization

Since these attacks are focused on older Windows operating, the most prudent thing to do is to retire all Windows 2003 servers and Windows XP PCs.

Make sure all of your computers have antivirus software, make sure the software is configured properly, and that all virus signatures are updated regularly.

If you have a SonicWALL firewall, you can turn on GEO IP Filtering to block traffic from outside the US or from countries that are known to harbor cyber-terrorists such as North Korea.

For other brands of firewalls, you may have similar options, or you may have to manually block the range of IP addresses listed in the US-CERT alert.

If you’re a Fulcrum Group SPOT Managed IT Services client, we can help you make sure you’re protected.