New threats from North Korean malware

Image copyright: David Carillet / Shutterstock 

Two joint technical alerts issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI through the U.S. Cybersecurity Emergency Readiness Team shine some light on tools and infrastructure used by North Korea to attack U.S. media, aerospace, financial services, critical infrastructure and government networks.

The alerts explain some of the operational aspects of North Korea's "Hidden Cobra" malicious cyber activity, which the two agencies brought to light last June.

The two latest warnings include a list of IP addresses that have targeted government, media, aerospace, financial and critical infrastructure sectors, as well as a remote administration tool called FALLCHILL, which is used by the North Korean government to control malware that has already infiltrated targeted servers.

North Korea, according to one of the alerts, has likely been using the FALLCHILL malware since 2016 to target aerospace, telecommunications and finance industries in the U.S.

In the second alert, the DHS and FBI identified IP addresses and other indicators of compromise linked with the "Volgmer" trojan used by the North Korean government. The FBI said it has "high confidence" in the IP addresses that Hidden Cobra actors are using to linger on target networks and to facilitate network exploitation.

Volgmer, said the advisory, is trojan malware, primarily delivered via phishing attacks, that gives bad actors a backdoor into compromised systems. The FBI said Volgmer has been used since at least 2013 "in the wild" to infiltrate U.S. government, financial, automotive and media industries.

The advisory said, however, that Hidden Cobra actors employ a range of custom tools to initially break into a system, making it possible that more malware could be entwined in the infrastructure of networks already infected by Volgmer.

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 or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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