BeagleBoyz Threat Actors Rob Banks Through Remote Internet Access FASTCash 2.0 Attacks as North Korea Resumes Targeting Banks Worldwide
Four federal agencies warned that North Korea has resumed targeting banks with ATM cash-out schemes and fraudulent money transfers. The joint warning comes from the Cybersecurity Security and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Department of the Treasury, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM.) Together, the agencies released information about ongoing North Korean government ATM cash-out attacks and money transfers schemes.
The advisory includes a joint Technical Alert and three Malware Analysis Reports (MARs) on the scheme referred to as FASTCash by threat actors referred to as BeagleBoyz. The threat actors steal money from banks across the globe in ongoing remote Internet access attacks to fund other North Korean initiatives.
BeagleBoyz have attempted to steal nearly $2 billion since at least 2015. FASTCash remote access ATM cash-out attacks were first identified in October 2016. They died down in late 2019. In February 2020, the attacks have resumed and are ongoing targeting banks across the globe.
“The BeagleBoyz have used a variety of techniques, such as spear phishing and watering holes, to enable initial access into targeted financial institutions,” says the CISA alert. The attackers may send an email attachment with malware targeting an individual within a company. They may compromise a website visited by users in particular regions or exploited security vulnerabilities. Or they may steal the credentials of a privileged user or service account to bypass controls.
North Korea’s BeagleBoyz Robbing Bank ATMs
Damage from BeagleBoyz causes more than financial losses or reputation damage. The government advisory states that a cyber attack in 2018 rendered an African bank unable to operate its ATMs or point of sale services for bank customers for two months after a FASTCash attack.
The threat actors are responsible for:
- Fraudulent ATM cashouts in over of 30 countries, including in the United States, in a single incident
- Using banks, including in the United States, as a pass-through in their SWIFT fraud scheme
- $81 million was stolen from the Bank of Bangladesh in 2016. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York detected and stopped the remainder of this attempted $1 billion theft
- In 2018, BeagleBoys dropper wiper malware into a Chilean bank’s computers as a distraction
“The BeagleBoyz often seek access to financial institutions’ systems that have tiered user and system accounts with customized privileges. The BeagleBoyz must overcome these restrictions to access necessary systems, monitor normal user behavior, and install and execute additional malicious tools.”
Nations Targeted by BeagleBoys
The BeagleBoyz likely have targeted financial institutions in the following nations from 2015 through 2020: Argentina, Brazil, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Tanzania, Togo, Turkey, Uganda, Uruguay, Vietnam, and Zambia.
The renewed cyberattack is the work of state sponsored threat actors referred to as BeagleBoyz, who are a subset of HIDDEN COBRA threat actors. BeagleBoyz and HIDDEN COBRA work at the behest of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) commonly referred to as North Korea. These malicious cyberattacks are tracked under a variety of monikers. Advanced Persistent Threat Group 38,Lazarus, APT38, Bluenoroff, HIDDEN COBRA, and Stardust Chollima all refer to North Korea.
“The BeagleBoyz, an element of the North Korean government’s Reconnaissance General Bureau, have likely been active since at least 2014,” says the advisory. The threat actors may use malware like ECCENTRICBANDWAGON to record keystrokes and take screen captures.
For more information on North Korea Malicious Cyberactivity, review other CISA MAR
“These findings are presented to highlight the group’s ability to tailor their techniques to different targets and to adapt their methods over time. Consequently, there is a need for layered mitigations to effectively defend against this activity, as relying solely on network signature detection will not sufficiently protect against North Korea’s BeagleBoyz.”