The attack group behind Olympic Destroyer, the cyberthreat that struck the opening of the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, with a destructive network worm, is still active, researchers said.
The group is now targeting Germany, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Ukraine and Russia, with a focus on organizations involved in protection against chemical and biological threats, said researchers at Kaspersky Lab.
Olympic Destroyer is an advanced threat that hit organizers, suppliers and partners of the Winter Olympic Games 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea with a cyber sabotage operation based on a destructive network worm.
Quite a few indicators pointed in different directions for the origins of the attack, causing some confusion in the information security industry in February 2018. A few rare and sophisticated signs discovered by Kaspersky Lab suggested Lazarus group, a North Korea-linked threat actor, was behind the operation; however, in March, the company confirmed the campaign featured an elaborate and convincing false flag operation, and Lazarus was unlikely to be the source. Researchers have now found the Olympic Destroyer operation is back in action, using some of its original infiltration and reconnaissance toolset, and focusing on targets in Europe.
The attacker is spreading its malware through spear-phishing documents that closely resemble the weaponized documents used in preparation for the Winter Olympics operation. One such decoy document referred to the ‘Spiez Convergence,’ a biochemical threat conference held in Switzerland and organized by the Spiez Laboratory, an organization that played a key role in the Salisbury attack investigation. Another document targeted an entity of the health and veterinary control authority of Ukraine. Some of the spear-phishing documents uncovered by researchers carry words in Russian and German.
All final payloads extracted from the malicious documents were designed to provide generic access to the compromised computers. An open-source and free framework, widely known as Powershell Empire, was used for the second stage of the attack.
The attackers appear to use compromised legitimate web servers to host and control the malware. These servers use a popular open-source content management system (CMS) called Joomla. The researchers found one of the servers hosting the malicious payload used a version of Joomla (v1.7.3) released in November 2011, which suggests that a very outdated variant of the CMS could have been used by the attackers to hack the servers.
“The appearance, at the start of this year, of Olympic Destroyer with its sophisticated deception efforts, changed the attribution game forever and showed how easy it is to make a mistake with only fragments of the picture that are visible to researchers,” said Vitaly Kamluk, security researcher, Global Research and Analysis Team, Kaspersky Lab. “The analysis and deterrence of these threats should be based on cooperation between the private sector and governments across national borders. We hope that by sharing our findings publicly, incident responders and security researchers will be better equipped to recognize and mitigate such an attack at any stage in the future.”