With Kimsuky APT advisory, gov’t finally shares actionable information

Security researchers have sharply criticized the government in the past for not offering enough detail and guidance about ongoing cyberthreats, but a recent government advisory on the North Korean advanced persistent threat (APT) group Kimsuky offered some of the best actionable guidance to security teams that some researchers have seen in a long time.

The joint cybersecurity advisory from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Cyber Command Cyber National Mission Force (CNMF) “contains many details about cyber threats that defenders could take action on,” Katie Nickels, director of intelligence at Red Canary. “It provides both behavior-based details as well as indicators of compromise from both the endpoint and network perspectives, which would allow defenders with various collections and visibility to identify these threats.”

The latest joint cybersecurity advisory found that the APT group, which likely has been operating since 2012, is most likely tasked by the North Korean regime with a global intelligence-gathering mission.

It employs common social engineering tactics, spearphishing, and watering hole attacks to exfiltrate desired information from victims, most likely using spearphishing to gain initial access into victim hosts or networks. Intelligence collection activities are conducted about against individuals and organizations in South Korea, Japan, and the United States and the group focuses collection activities on foreign policy and national security issues related to the Korean peninsula, nuclear policy, and sanctions.

Nickels added that yesterday’s report links to the research of other community members, including MITRE ATT&CK, Palo Alto Unit 42, and Securelist.

The level of detail is a departure of reports stemming from the DHS’s Automated Indicator Sharing (AIS) program, which has been widely criticized and was recently the subject of an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report

Erich Kron, security awareness advocate at KnowBe4, agreed that the CISA advisory was very detailed and actionable. However, he said the government typically has done a good job offering actionable details on other alerts. For example, he said alerts about Emotet, LokiBot the Chinese Ministry of State Security-Affiliated Cyber Threat Actor Activity all have very detailed information about the attacks.

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