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North Korean-backed ‘Sharpshooter’ Cyber Attacks Still on, Says McAfee Report

Previous attacks focused on telecommunications, government and financial sectors, primarily in the US, Switzerland, Israel and others

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Logo of McAfee
Logo of McAfee. Flickr

A global cyber espionage campaign, known as Operation Sharpshooter, started a year earlier than previously thought and is still ongoing, say security researchers, adding that a group linked to North Korea could be behind the campaign.

The findings were revealed after researchers at US-headquartered global cybersecurity firm McAfee got a rare opportunity to examine the code and data from a command-and-control server responsible for the management of the operations, tools and tradecraft behind this global cyber espionage campaign.

McAfee on Sunday said the command-and-control server code was provided by a government entity.

“Access to the adversary’s command-and-control server code is a rare opportunity. These systems provide insights into the inner workings of cyberattack infrastructure, are typically seized by law enforcement, and only rarely made available to private sector researchers,” Christiaan Beek, McAfee Senior Principal Engineer and Lead Scientist, said in a statement.

McAfee first uncovered Operation Sharpshooter in December 2018.

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Image source: wordpress.com

The new analysis suggests that the campaign began as early as September 2017 — approximately a year earlier than previously evidenced — and is still ongoing.

Analysis of the new evidence has exposed striking similarities between the techniques used in the Sharpshooter attacks and aspects of multiple other groups of attacks attributed by the industry to the Lazarus Group, McAfee said.

The Lazarus Group is linked to North Korea which was blamed for the 2016 Sony hack and the WannaCry ransomware outbreak in 2017 among other attacks on global businesses.

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The Sharpshooter attacks appear to now focus primarily on financial services, government and critical infrastructure,McAfee said, adding that the largest number of recent attacks primarily target Germany, Turkey, Britain and the US.

Previous attacks focused on telecommunications, government and financial sectors, primarily in the US, Switzerland, Israel and others, it added. (IANS)

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North Korea Slams Joe Biden as “Imbecile” and “Fool of Low IQ”

North Korean media often lash out at world leaders who criticize members of the ruling Kim family

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Former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a rally, May 1, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. VOA

North Korean state media slammed Joe Biden as an “imbecile” and a “fool of low IQ” Wednesday, Pyongyang’s first substantial comments on the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The commentary in the state-run Korean Central News Agency criticized Biden for recently referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a thug and a tyrant.

“[Biden] reeled off rhetoric slandering the supreme leadership of the DPRK,” KCNA said, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name. “What he uttered is just sophism of an imbecile bereft of elementary quality as a human being, let alone a politician.”

The statement does not represent a formal endorsement of Trump; North Korean media often lash out at world leaders who criticize members of the ruling Kim family. “What is interesting this time is that the North Koreans may be attacking who they figure is Trump’s main domestic rival to curry favor with the president,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

Polls indicate Biden leading his Democratic rivals, as well as Trump, in the 2020 race. The former vice president often criticizes Trump’s diplomatic outreach to authoritarian leaders. He recently slammed Kim as a thug.

“He’s the same guy (who had) his uncle’s brains blown out sitting across a desk,” Biden said earlier this month, referring to Kim’s 2013 execution of his uncle and mentor, Jang Song-thaek. The un-bylined KCNA editorial did not mention Trump. But it did appear to give a nod to Trump’s newly rolled out nickname for Biden: “Sleepy Joe.”

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Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden arrives for a campaign rally at Eakins Oval in Philadelphia, May 18, 2019. VOA

​”In April 2011 when the then President [Barack] Obama was in the middle of making a speech, [Biden] was fast asleep in the auditorium,” the commentary said, adding Biden became a “laughing-stock of the media.”

Trump, who is 72 years old, has attempted to portray Biden, who is 76, as not having enough energy to become president. KCNA also hit at Biden’s reputation for making verbal gaffes. “Yet, he is self-praising himself as being the most popular presidential candidate,” the editorial said. “This is enough to make a cat laugh.”

It isn’t the first time North Korean media have weighed in during a Trump presidential run. In 2016, an editorial in the DPRK Today, a China-based North Korean mouthpiece, called Trump “wise” and “far-sighted,” while slamming his opponent Hillary Clinton as “dull.”

Even though North Korea has recently taken a more aggressive stance toward the United States, state media have been careful not to criticize Trump. One North Korean official said Kim’s relationship with Trump remains “mysteriously wonderful,” even though nuclear talks have broken down.

Instead, North Korean state media have slammed other U.S. officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton.

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North Korean state media slammed Joe Biden as an “imbecile” and a “fool of low IQ” Wednesday, Pyongyang’s first substantial comments on the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Wikimedia Commons

“Whether the person is Democrat or Republican, North Korean media will always react against someone who insults their leader,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies. “And unless Trump calls Kim a dictator or says something harsh, North Korea will not directly criticize the president.”

Soo Kim, a North Korea watcher and former CIA analyst, agrees that Pyongyang doesn’t typically endorse U.S. presidential candidates. But Pyongyang clearly wants Trump to remain in office so that negotiations can continue, she said.

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Nuclear talks broke down following a Trump-Kim summit in February in Hanoi, Vietnam. The two leaders were unable to agree on how to match the pace of sanctions relief with steps to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program.

Kim has said he will give the United States until the end of the year to change its approach, and has begun testing ballistic missiles for the first time in a year and a half. Trump has shrugged off Kim’s deadline and the missile launches, saying he is in no hurry for a deal. (VOA)