Shared malware code links SWIFT-related breaches at banks and North Korean hackers

The malware used to steal $81 million from Bangladesh Bank has links to the 2014 attack on Sony Pictures

Malware links suggest that North Korean hackers might be behind recent attacks against several Asian banks, including the theft of US$81 million from the Bangladesh central bank earlier this year.

Security researchers from Symantec have found evidence that the malware used in the Bangladesh Bank cyberheist was used in targeted attacks against an unnamed bank in the Philippines. The same malware was also previously linked to an attempted theft of $1 million from Tien Phong Bank in Vietnam.

Symantec confirmed the earlier findings of researchers from BAE Systems who found code similarities between the Bangladesh Bank malware, which was used to modify SWIFT transfers, and the malicious program used in attacks against Sony Pictures Entertainment in December 2014.

The U.S. government attributed the Sony attack to North Korea. FBI Director James Comey said last year he had "very high confidence" in that attribution despite denials from the North Korean government and the skepticism of some security researchers.

The hacker group behind the Sony attack is known in the computer security industry as Lazarus and has been active since at least 2009, primarily targeting organizations from the U.S. and South Korea. One of the malware programs in the group's toolset is called Backdoor.Contopee.

"Symantec has identified three pieces of malware which were being used in limited targeted attacks against the financial industry in South-East Asia: Backdoor.Fimlis, Backdoor.Fimlis.B, and Backdoor.Contopee," the Symantec researchers said in a blog post.

Backdoor programs provide unauthorized access to a computer, but their presence doesn't necessarily reveal the attackers’ end goal. However, the motivation for those targeted attacks became clearer when similar code was found in Trojan.Banswift, which was used in the Bangladesh attack to manipulate SWIFT transactions, and earlier versions of Backdoor.Contopee, the researchers said.

The primary link is a portion of code that wipes files using a unique routine. It is shared by Trojan.Banswift and Backdoor.Contopee.

The file-wiping code has not been found in other malware programs, and Backdoor.Contopee was used by Lazarus in targeted attacks against banks in the region. Those connections led the Symantec researchers to believe Trojan.Banswift was also created by the same group.

"The discovery of more attacks provides further evidence that the group involved is conducting a wide campaign against financial targets in the region," the Symantec researchers say.

The announcement comes after a Bloomberg report that up to a dozen banks from Southeast Asia have hired security firm FireEye to investigate potential security breaches and SWIFT irregularities on their networks.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2018

Secure and Save before time runs out with Bitdefender Exclusive Clearance Offer! Get Bitdefender Total Security 2018 Now!

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

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.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?