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HomeTech & GadgetsNorth Korean hackers once again exploit Internet Explorer’s leftover bits

North Korean hackers once again exploit Internet Explorer’s leftover bits


Internet Explorer logo embedded in North Korean flag
Enlarge / APT37, a gaggle believed to be backed by the North Korean authorities, has discovered success exploiting the bits of Web Explorer nonetheless current in numerous Home windows-based apps.

Aurich Lawson | Getty Pictures

Microsoft’s Edge browser has changed Web Explorer in virtually each regard, however some exceptions stay. A kind of, deep inside Microsoft Phrase, was exploited by a North-Korean-backed group this fall, Google safety researchers declare.

It is not the first time the government-backed APT37 has utilized Web Explorer’s lingering presence, as Google’s Risk Evaluation Group (TAG) notes in a blog post. APT37 has had repeated success focusing on South Korean journalists and activists, plus North Korean defectors, by means of a restricted however nonetheless profitable Web Explorer pathway.

The final exploit focused these heading to Daily NK, a South Korean website devoted to North Korean information. This one concerned the Halloween crowd crush in Itaewon, which killed at the very least 151 folks. A Microsoft Phrase .docx doc, named as if it had been timed and dated lower than two days after the incident and labeled “accident response state of affairs,” began circulating. South Korean customers started submitting the document to the Google-owned VirusTotal, the place it was flagged with CVE-2017-0199, a long-known vulnerability in Phrase and WordPad.

The document in question purports to be related to a deadly crowd panic in late October in Itaewon, South Korea.
Enlarge / The doc in query purports to be associated to a lethal crowd panic in late October in Itaewon, South Korea.

Simply as in April 2017, the doc, when you click on to permit Phrase/WordPad to view it exterior the no-download “Protected View,” downloads a wealthy textual content template from an attacker-controlled server, then grabs extra HTML that appears like Wealthy Textual content Format templates. Workplace and WordPad intrinsically use Web Explorer to render HTML in what Microsoft describes as “specifically crafted recordsdata,” giving attackers a technique to then usher in numerous malware payloads. Whereas patched that same month, the vulnerability continued; it was one of many vectors exploited in a Petya wave more than a year later.

The precise vulnerability has to do with Web Explorer’s JavaScript engine. An error throughout just-in-time optimization results in a data type confusion and memory writing. This explicit exploit additionally cleaned up after itself, clearing the Web Explorer cache and historical past of its presence. Whereas Google’s TAG would not know what payloads had been delivered, APT37 has beforehand circulated exploits that triggered BLUELIGHT, ROKRAT, and DOLPHIN, all specializing in North Korean political and financial pursuits. (North Korean hackers aren’t averse to a Chrome exploit, although.)

Microsoft patched the specific exploit in its JScript engine, however this being the fifth yr of remote-code Phrase doc assaults, it looks as if they’re going to be round for some time longer. And North Korean actors shall be desirous to act on them.



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