Kaspersky Lab researchers on Monday established a connection between a 2016 cyber espionage attack on South Korea’s defense agency and a subsequent attack that infected 60 ATMs and stole the data from over 2,000 credit cards. Further, the malicious code and techniques used in both attacks share similarities with earlier attacks widely attributed to the infamous Lazarus group, responsible for series of devastating attacks against commercial and government organisations around the world. In August 2016, a cyber attack on South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense infected around 3,000 hosts. The Defense Agency reported the incident publically in December 2016, admitting that some confidential information could have been exposed.
Six months later, at least 60 ATMs in South Korea, managed by a single local vendor, were compromised with malware. The incident was reported by the Financial Security Institute and, according to the Financial Supervisory Service, resulted in the theft of the details of 2,500 financial cards and the illegal withdrawal in Taiwan of approximately USD 2,500 from these accounts.
Kaspersky Lab researched the malware used in the ATM incident and discovered that the machines were attacked with the same malicious code used to hit the Korean Ministry of National Defense in August 2016. Exploring the connection between these attacks and earlier hacks, Kaspersky Lab found similarities with the Dark Seoul malicious operations, and others, which are attributed to the Lazarus hacking group. The commonalities include the use of the same decryption routines and obfuscation techniques, overlap in command and control infrastructure, and similarities in code.