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AppleJeus: Lazarus Group Hunts Cryptocurrency Exchanges Using macOS Malware

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Kaspersky Lab researchers uncover a new malicious operation by the
infamous Lazarus group

Kaspersky
Lab
's Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT) has discovered AppleJeus,
a new malicious operation by the infamous Lazarus group. The attackers
penetrated the network of a cryptocurrency exchange in Asia using
Trojanized cryptocurrency trading software. The goal of the attack was
to steal cryptocurrency from their victims. In addition to Windows-based
malware, researchers were able to identify a previously unknown version
targeting the macOS platform.

This is the first case where Kaspersky Lab researchers have observed the
notorious Lazarus group distributing malware that targets macOS users,
and it represents a wakeup call for everyone who uses this OS for
cryptocurrency-related activity.

Based on the analysis by GReAT, the penetration of the stock exchange's
infrastructure began when an unsuspecting company employee downloaded a
third-party application from the legitimate-looking website of a company
that develops software for cryptocurrency trading.

The application's code is not suspicious, with the exception of one
component – an updater. In legitimate software, such components are used
to download new versions of programs. In the case of AppleJeus, it acts
like a reconnaissance module: first it collects basic information about
the computer it has been installed on, then it sends this information
back to the command and control server and, if the attackers decide that
the computer is worth attacking, the malicious code comes back in the
form of a software update. The malicious update installs a Trojan known
as Fallchill, an old tool that the Lazarus group has recently reverted
back to. This fact provided the researchers with a base for attribution.
Upon installation, the Fallchill Trojan provides the attackers with
almost unlimited access to the attacked computer, allowing them to steal
valuable financial information or to deploy additional tools for that
purpose.

The situation was exacerbated by the fact that the criminals have
developed software for both the Windows and macOS platform. The latter
is generally far less exposed to cyberthreats than Windows. The
functionality of both platform versions of the malware is exactly the
same.

Another unusual thing about the AppleJeus operation is that while it
looks like a supply-chain attack, in reality this may not be the case.
The vendor of the cryptocurrency trading software that was used to
deliver the malicious payload to the victims' computers has a valid
digital certificate for signing its software and legitimate looking
registration records for the domain. However – at least based on
publicly available information – Kaspersky Lab researchers could not
identify any legitimate organization located at the address used in the
certificate's information.

"We noticed a growing interest of the Lazarus group in cryptocurrency
markets at the beginning of 2017, when Monero mining software was
installed on one of their servers by a Lazarus operator. Since then,
they have been spotted several times targeting cryptocurrency exchanges
alongside regular financial organizations," notes Vitaly Kamluk, Head of
GReAT APAC, Kaspersky Lab. "The fact that they developed malware to
infect macOS users in addition to Windows users and – most likely – even
created an entirely fake software company and software product in order
to be able to deliver this malware undetected by security solutions,
means that they see potentially big profits in the whole operation, and
we should definitely expect more such cases in the near future. For
macOS users this case is a wakeup call, especially if they use their
Macs to perform operations with cryptocurrencies."

The Lazarus group, known
for its sophisticated operations
and links to North Korea, is noted
not only for its cyberespionage and cyber-sabotage attacks, but also for
financially-motivated attacks. A number of researchers, including those
at Kaspersky Lab, have previously reported on this group targeting banks
and other large financial enterprises.

In order to protect yourself and your company from sophisticated
cyberattacks from groups like Lazarus, Kaspersky Lab security experts
advise the following:

  • Do not automatically trust the code running on your systems. Neither
    an authentic-looking website, nor a solid company profile, nor digital
    certificates guarantee the absence of backdoors.
  • Use a robust security solution, equipped with malicious-behavior
    detection technologies that enable even previously unknown threats to
    be caught.
  • Subscribe your organization's security team to a high quality threat
    intelligence reporting service in order to get early access to
    information on the most recent developments in the tactics, techniques
    and procedures of sophisticated threat actors.
  • Use multi-factor authentication and hardware wallets if you are
    dealing with significant financial transactions. For this purpose,
    preferably use a standalone, isolated computer that you do not use to
    browse the internet or read email.

Read the full version of the report on Securelist.com.

About Kaspersky Lab
Kaspersky Lab is a global cybersecurity
company, which has been operating in the market for over 20 years.
Kaspersky Lab's deep threat intelligence and security expertise is
constantly transforming into next generation security solutions and
services to protect businesses, critical infrastructure, governments and
consumers around the globe. The company's comprehensive security
portfolio includes leading endpoint protection and a number of
specialized security solutions and services to fight sophisticated and
evolving digital threats. Over 400 million users are protected by
Kaspersky Lab technologies and we help 270,000 corporate clients protect
what matters most to them. Learn more at www.kaspersky.com.

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