Banking hackers left a clue that may link them to North Korea

The Lazarus Group has also been linked to the 2014 Sony hack, which the U.S. has blamed on North Korea

The notorious hackers behind a string of banking heists have left behind a clue that supports a long-suspected link to North Korea, according to security researchers.

The so-called Lazarus Group has been eyed as a possible culprit behind the heists, which included last February’s $81 million theft from Bangladesh’s central bank through the SWIFT transaction software.

However, hackers working for the group recently made a mistake: They failed to wipe the logs from a server the group had hacked in Europe, security firm Kaspersky Lab said on Monday.

The logs show that the server had at one point connected with an Internet Protocol address from North Korea, an unusual sign given that the country has very limited internet access.

The IP address adds to the evidence that the Lazarus Group is tied to North Korea. Last year, security researchers also noticed similarities between coding techniques the group used in its banking heists and those used in the 2014 Sony hack, which the U.S. has blamed on North Korea.

That prompted speculation that North Korea was using the bank thefts to build up its foreign currency reserves.

In a blog post, Kaspersky Lab said the recovered server logs show a direct link between North Korea and a subunit within Lazarus that is devoted to hacking for profit. In addition to banks, the group has been targeting casinos, companies that develop financial software, and digital currency businesses.

The hackers probably failed to wipe the server because they had installed software to generate Monero, a cryptocurrency. “The software so intensely consumed system resources that the system became unresponsive and froze,” the security firm said.

However, Kaspersky Lab stopped short of naming the North Korean government as responsible for Lazarus's activities.

"As researchers, we prefer to provide facts rather than speculations," it said.

Lazarus has been around at least since 2009, and it appears to be a large organization, according to Kaspersky Lab. For example, it’s been found pumping out new malware while avoiding the use of old tools. Doing that requires a large-scale operation.

The hacking collective's newest malware strains have been found infecting victims in at least 18 countries. It has spread the malware using watering hole attacks, which involve hacking websites that specific targets might visit.

“All this level of sophistication is something that is not generally found in the cybercriminal world,” the security firm said. It also means that the group needs a lot of capital to keep functioning.

U.S. investigators are also building a case that would accuse North Korea in the $81 million bank heist in Bangladesh, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Monday.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Kan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?