Skip to main content

North Korean hackers create fake job offers to steal important data

Lazarus, a state-sponsored hacker group based in North Korea, is now using open-source software and creating fake jobs in order to spread malware, says Microsoft.

The well-known group of hackers is targeting many key industry sectors, such as technology, media entertainment, and defense, and it’s using many different kinds of software to carry out these attacks.

An image describing how the hacker group ZINC operates.

The next time you get a message on LinkedIn, you should be careful. Microsoft warns that the North Korea-based threat group has been actively using open-source software infected with trojans to attack industry professionals. Microsoft has determined that these social engineering attacks started in late April and continued until at least mid-September.

Lazarus, also referred to as ZINC, Labyrinth Chollima, and Black Artemis, is a state-sponsored military hacking group from North Korea. It’s said that it has been active since at least 2009, and since then it’s been responsible for a variety of large attacks, including phishing, ransomware campaigns, and more.

The group has been creating fake LinkedIn recruiter profiles and approaching suitable candidates with job offers at legitimate, existing companies. “Targets received outreach tailored to their profession or background and were encouraged to apply for an open position at one of several legitimate companies,” said Microsoft.

Once the victims were convinced to move the conversation over from LinkedIn to WhatsApp, which offers encrypted communication, the hackers moved on to the next step. During the WhatsApp conversation, the targets received infected software that allowed Lazarus to deploy malware on their systems.

The end goal for the hackers was to be able to steal sensitive information or obtain access to valuable networks. Aside from the malware — which was found in programs such as PuTTY, KiTTY, TightVNC, muPDF/Subliminal Recording, and Sumatra PDF Reader — the attacks were well-engineered on the social side of things, too, with LinkedIn profiles and companies picked to match the victim’s profession.

A depiction of a hacker breaking into a system via the use of code.
Getty Images

As noted by Bleeping Computer, ZINC has also carried out similar attacks by using fake social media personas to distribute malware. Earlier, it was chiefly targeting security researchers; this time around, the attacks have a broader range.

These attacks seem like a follow-up to Operation Dream Job. The campaign, active since 2020, focused on targets from the defense and aerospace sectors in the U.S. and lured them in with interesting job offers, all with the goal of conducting cyber-espionage. Lazarus has also been spotted targeting cryptocurrency workers and crypto exchanges in the past.

How to protect yourself from these attacks? Try to keep your LinkedIn conversations on the platform, if at all possible. Don’t accept files from people you don’t know and make sure to use good antivirus software. Lastly, don’t be afraid to reach out to the company and verify that the person trying to send you files actually works there.

Editors' Recommendations

Monica J. White
Monica is a UK-based freelance writer and self-proclaimed geek. A firm believer in the "PC building is just like expensive…
New phishing method looks just like the real thing, but it steals your passwords
A MacBook with Google Chrome loaded.

Thanks to a new phishing method, hackers could steal all sorts of personal information by simply mimicking real login forms in Application Mode. This is a feature that's available in all Chromium-based browsers, which includes Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Brave.

Using Application Mode allows threat actors to spread highly believable-looking local login forms that look like desktop applications. In reality, all inputs are sent to a malicious attacker.

Read more
Beware: Hackers are using a clever Microsoft Edge malvertising scam
The Microsoft Edge browser is open on a Surface Book 2 in tablet mode.

If you're still using Microsoft Edge, you need to beware -- a new malvertising campaign has just been discovered, and if you fall victim to it, your PC might be at risk.

According to Malwarebytes, the attackers are abusing Microsoft Edge's News Feed feature to target their victims. Here's what we know about this clever new scam.

Read more
Hackers can now sneak malware into the GIFs you share
A video call in progress on Microsoft Teams.

How low will malware go to get onto your device? We thought using Minecraft to gain access to your computer was the most nefarious method hackers have produced, but there's a new, even lower type of attack that uses Microsoft Teams and GIFs to mount phishing attacks on your computer.

The new attack is called GIFShell and it installs malware on your computer to steal data. It does so by sneaking itself into innocent-looking GIFs and then waiting for you to share the GIF with your colleagues via Microsoft Teams.

Read more