How to spot a North Korean bot

Image copyright: David Carillet / Shutterstock 

As extensive joint military exercises between U.S. and South Korean forces wound down in late August, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security updated a warning on the North Korean government's attack botnet infrastructure.

The FBI and DHS initially warned in June that North Korea was using a government-managed botnet infrastructure they dubbed "Hidden Cobra," to aim distributed denial-of-service attacks at media, aerospace, financial and critical infrastructure sectors in the United States and around the globe.

Older, unpatched versions of Adobe's Flash media player and Microsoft's Silverlight video player were cited as potential attack vectors.

The warning and detailed update come as tensions between the U.S. and North Korea spike as the U.S. tries to back the country off of a path to international nuclear strike capabilities. North Korea, along with China, Russia and Iran, have been on the federal government's short list of potent cyber threat sponsors for some time.

An Aug. 23 update posted on the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team provides more technical details on the operation and how to detect the North Korean bots on networks.

The two agencies identified the IP addresses of "DeltaCharlie" malware that North Korea used to manage its DDOS botnet infrastructure and updated detection and file information on the malware. The CERT notice includes indicators of compromise, malware descriptions, network signatures and host-based rules to help network defenders detect activity, that is allegedly driven by the North Korean government

CERT said it had obtained three files associated with DeltaCharlie attack malware, which were designed to conduct three types of attacks to open the door for DDOS assaults.

The files, said the warning, set up backdoor command-and-control capabilities on compromised systems, allowing malicious operators to take command controls and capabilities from the victim system, to tailor DDOS attack techniques.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


  • Elections
    voting security

    'Unprecedented' challenges to safe, secure 2020 vote

    Our election infrastructure is bending under the stress of multiple crises. Administrators say they are doing all they can to ensure it doesn't break.

  • FCW Perspectives
    zero trust network

    Can government get to zero trust?

    Today's hybrid infrastructures and highly mobile workforces need the protection zero trust security can provide. Too bad there are obstacles at almost every turn.

Stay Connected


Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.