North Korea is known for a lot of things, and now it seems one of those things might be hacking. The reclusive country has reportedly been using state-sanctioned hackers to attack just about everyone, according to a Technical Alert released Tuesday by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
According to the report, North Korea has been using an army of hackers called “Hidden Cobra” to perform cyber attacks and cyber espionage since at least 2009. The U.S. report also details the tools and methods that Hidden Cobra has been using for years to deploy such attacks, which often target the media, the aerospace and financial sectors and critical infrastructure in the U.S. and around the globe. And, according to the DHS and FBI, the hermit kingdom is only likely to continue its cyber warfare campaign in the future.
Some of the more high-profile attacks attributed to North Korea and Hidden Cobra include the massive Sony Pictures hack in 2014, as well as the much more recent WannaCry ransomware campaign that temporarily crippled Britain’s National Health Service and caused other widespread chaos. Some of Hidden Cobra’s methods include DDoS attacks (similar to the massive IoT-driven hack last October), as well as keyloggers, remote access tools, and wiper malware, the U.S. report added. In many cases, these methods are used in coordinated cyber espionage campaigns to spy on the financial, energy and transportation industries — and especially those located in South Korea. In others, the methods are used for more disruptive cyber attacks, like WannaCry.
While individuals have less to fear from Hidden Cobra than the industries the group tends to target, it’s still a good idea to be mindful about your internet security. Luckily, the North Korean hacker group reportedly targets older Windows machines running unpatched versions of operating systems like Windows XP — though Hidden Cobra also has tools to gain access to computers via Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight. Still, users whose devices are on the latest versions of their particular OS are likely to be a lot safer.
Even if your individual devices are relatively safe from harm, however, Hidden Cobra’s hacking campaigns might still be cause for concern. North Korea’s hacking activities have grown much more hostile in recent years, Reuters reported, and it could suggest that the country is “preparing for something fairly significant.”