The world of cyber security and online fraud is a dark and dangerous one, where hackers can gain access to sensitive information and steal from innocent victims. But even among the sophisticated hacking tactics employed by criminals nowadays, it is rare for a group to accomplish something as ambitious as what North Korean hackers attempted in 2018. In this blog post, we will explore how North Korean hackers almost succeeded in stealing over $1 billion dollars with their heist attempt. We will look at the ingenious methods they used, the different ways they tried to cover their tracks, and the global implications of their actions. Read on for an inside look into one of the most daring and complex cyber-attacks ever attempted.
The Lazarus Group
In September 2016, a group of North Korean hackers tried to steal over a billion dollars from the New York Federal Reserve. The group, known as the Lazarus Group, has been linked to several high-profile cyber attacks, including the 2014 attack on Sony Pictures. The group gained access to the Federal Reserve's systems through a phishing email campaign. Once inside, they tried to wire money from the reserve to accounts in Asia. Luckily, the transfer was stopped before it could be completed. While the Lazarus Group is not as well-known as other hacking groups, such as Anonymous or WikiLeaks, they are considered to be one of the most sophisticated and dangerous hacking groups in operation today.
The Lazarus heist: how it went down
In early 2018, a North Korean hacking group known as Lazarus successfully infiltrated the computer systems of an international financial institution. The hackers gained access to sensitive information and attempted to transfer nearly $1 billion out of the institution's accounts. The financial institution was able to identify the fraudulent activity and prevent the funds from being stolen. However, the incident highlights the sophistication of North Korean hacking groups and their ability to target global financial institutions.
The Sony hack
In November 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment was the victim of a devastating hack that saw sensitive data - including employee information and confidential financial documents - leaked online. The attack was later attributed to North Korea, and it is believed that the hackers were attempting to steal money from Sony's accounts. The hack had a significant impact on Sony's business, with the company losing millions of dollars as a result. However, thanks to quick thinking from Sony's security team, the hackers were ultimately unsuccessful in their attempt to steal any money.
The WannaCry ransomware attack
In May 2017, a ransomware attack known as WannaCry swept the globe, infecting more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries. The WannaCry ransomware attack was particularly devastating because it exploited a critical vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that had been secretly discovered and weaponized by the U.S. National Security Agency. The WannaCry ransomware encrypts a victim's files and demands a ransom be paid in Bitcoin in order to decrypt the files. If the ransom is not paid within a certain time period, the price doubles. If the ransom is still not paid after another time period, the files are permanently deleted. The WannaCry ransomware attack caused widespread panic and disruption, with hospitals, businesses, and even government agencies being affected. The total damage caused by the attack is estimated to be over $4 billion. Fortunately, a security researcher named Marcus Hutchins was able to discover and activate a "kill switch" that stopped the spread of the WannaCry ransomware. However, variants of the WannaCry ransomware have since been released that do not have a kill switch, so users must remain vigilant against this threat.
The Bangladesh Bank heist
In February 2016, North Korean hackers attempted to steal nearly $1 billion from the Bangladesh Bank. The hackers were able to gain access to the bank's computer systems and attempt to transfer funds to several accounts around the world. However, the transfers were stopped before any money was actually stolen. This attempted heist is believed to be linked to North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, which are heavily sanctioned by the international community. The country is known to have a history of carrying out cyberattacks in order to generate funds for its prohibited activities. In this case, it appears that the hackers were targeting the Bangladesh central bank in order to obtain foreign currency. The attack on the Bangladesh Bank highlights the growing threat of cybercrime, particularly when it comes to state-sponsored actors. This incident also underscores the importance of strong cyber security measures, as even well-protected organizations can fall victim to sophisticated attacks.
How to protect yourself from North Korean hackers
In September 2016, North Korean hackers attempted to steal nearly $1 billion from the New York Federal Reserve. The hackers used the SWIFT banking system to send fraudulent messages requesting money transfers from the Fed to banks around the world.
Fortunately, the fraud was discovered before any money was actually stolen. But this incident highlights the threat that North Korean hackers pose to financial institutions and other organizations around the world.
So how can you protect yourself from North Korean hackers? Here are some steps you can take:
1. Keep your software up to date. Hackers often exploit security vulnerabilities in outdated software to gain access to systems. So make sure all your software, including your operating system, web browser, and any applications you use, is up to date.
2. Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication. Strong passwords that are difficult to guess or crack are essential for protecting your accounts from being hacked. You should also enable two-factor authentication whenever possible. This adds an extra layer of security by requiring you to enter a code from your phone or another device in addition to your password when logging into an account.
3. Be cautious about email attachments and links. Don't open email attachments or click on links unless you're absolutely sure they're safe. Hackers sometimes use phishing emails to trick people into downloading malware or clicking on malicious links.
4. Be aware of social engineering attacks. Social engineering attacks are attempts to trick people into revealing sensitive information or granting access to systems. Be wary of emails or phone calls from people claiming to be from your bank, the IRS, or other organizations.
5. Install a reliable firewall and antivirus software. A good firewall and antivirus program can help protect your system from malicious attacks. Make sure it's kept up to date with the latest patches and virus definitions.
6. Be aware of any changes in your accounts. Check your bank statements frequently for any suspicious activity and report any unusual activity immediately to your financial institution. This is especially important if you're based in a country that North Korea has targeted for cyberattacks in the past.
By following these steps, you can help protect yourself from North Korean hackers and stay safe online.