DHS, FBI again point to North Korean malware

malware detection (Alexander Yakimov/

The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI continue their steady, year-long drumbeat of warnings about malware emanating from North Korea’s “Hidden Cobra” cyber activity.

In an  Aug. 9 warning posted on DHS’ U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team website, the agency said analysis done alongside the FBI had uncovered a Trojan malware variant, dubbed “Keymarble” that appears to be the latest used by the North Korean government.

US-CERT placed Keymarble in the same “Hidden Cobra” bucket as a number of previously discovered malware activities backed by the North Korean government. The two agencies identified Hidden Cobra last June as a government-managed botnet infrastructure that aimed distributed denial-of-service attacks at media, aerospace, financial and critical infrastructure sectors in the United States and around the globe.

DHS and the FBI have been posting reports on Hidden Cobra-linked variants on the average of one a month since last June.

This June, the agencies warned of remote-access Trojan malware dubbed “Typeframe” backed by North Korea. In May, DHS and the FBI also posted warnings on US-CERT about the “Joanap” remote-access tool and “Brambul” server message block worm.

The two agencies typically don’t provide much detail in the advisories on where the malware was uncovered, focusing instead on details of its tell-tale coding and possible fixes.

Only days before the latest notice, in a speech at DHS’ cybersecurity summit in New York City, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said her agency would take a more-aggressive approach in attributing cyber attacks to nation states. She referenced the North Korean-backed “Wannacry” ransomware that crippled computer networks in over 100 countries in the spring of 2017, as well as Russian-backed cyber meddling in the U.S. 2016 election.

"The United States will no longer tolerate your interference," warned Nielsen in her keynote at the summit. "You will be exposed. And you will pay a high price.”

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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