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Lazarus Group's Operation Dream Job: A Cyber Espionage Masterpiece

November 8, 2023
Written by
Abhay Bhargav

You're a job seeker, eagerly awaiting responses to your applications. One day, you receive an email from a prestigious company offering you your dream job. You're thrilled! You open the email, attached to which is a job offer document. You download the attached document and open it.

But something's not right.

As soon as you open the document, your computer freezes. A malicious code has been installed on your machine that gives the attacker full control over your system.

In this blog, we'll talk about the North Korean state-sponsored advanced persistent threat (APT) group known as Lazarus Group and the malware campaign that they launched called Operation Dream Job. Let's go!

Table of Contents:

  • Who is the Lazarus Group?
  • What is Operation Dream Job?
  • Who were the victims?
  • Mitigation and Defense against Operation Dream Job
  • Ongoing vigilance in the face of cyber threats

Who is the Lazarus Group?

The Lazarus group is a state-sponsored hacking group based in North Korea that has been active since at least 2009. The group is recognized for orchestrating sophisticated and targeted attacks against a wide range of organizations, including governments, businesses, and financial institutions.

The Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), a North Korean espionage agency, has been suggested to be behind the Lazarus Group. The RGB is in charge of cyber espionage, reconnaissance, and other covert operations.

The Lazarus Group has been linked to several high-profile cyberattacks, including:

  • The 2014 hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment
  • The 2016 theft of $81 million from the Central Bank of Bangladesh
  • The 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack
  • The 2019 hack of the cryptocurrency exchange Binance

The Lazarus Group is a dangerous and highly sophisticated threat actor. They are well-known for exploiting zero-day vulnerabilities, social engineering, and other advanced methods. 

The group is believed to be driven by both monetary gain and espionage. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been taken from financial institutions and corporations around the globe, as well as sensitive data from governments and other organizations.

What is Operation Dream Job?

Operation Dream Job was a sophisticated cyber espionage campaign that started in 2021 by the Lazarus group. The campaign targeted hundreds of job seekers in the United States with fake job offers that were designed to steal their personal information and login credentials.

To make their phishing emails look legitimate, the attackers used a variety of strategies, including using real company names and logos and sending out emails from addresses that were very similar to the email addresses used by real recruiters. The emails also included links to fictitious corporate websites.

Once a victim opened a link in a phishing email and submitted their personal information on the fake website, the perpetrators would steal their data and exploit it to obtain entry to their online accounts. The attackers also created new accounts and applied for jobs in the victims' names using the stolen information.

Who were the victims?

The majority of the victims of Operation Dream Job were job seekers in the United States. The Lazarus Group targeted industries such as defense, aerospace, and technology. Companies that were specifically targeted include:

  • Lockheed Martin
  • Northrop Grumman
  • Boeing
  • Raytheon
  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • Amazon

Hundreds of job seekers are believed to have been affected by Operation Dream Job. Personal information such as names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and credit card details were stolen by the attackers. They also stole the login information for their online accounts, including email, social media, and bank accounts.

The Lazarus Group used the stolen information to commit identity theft and other crimes. They opened new credit cards and bank accounts in the victims' names, and they used the stolen login credentials to access the victims' online accounts. The attackers also used the stolen information to blackmail the victims.

Mitigation and Defense against Operation Dream Job

There are a number of things that organizations and individuals can do to mitigate and defend themselves from Operation Dream Job and other phishing scams:

Organizations can:

  • Educate employees about phishing and other social engineering attacks.
  • Implement security awareness training programs that teach employees how to identify and avoid phishing emails.
  • Use a security solution that can detect and block phishing emails.
  • Monitor networks for suspicious activity, such as employees clicking on malicious links or opening malicious attachments.
  • Have a plan in place to respond to security incidents.

Individuals can:

  • Be wary of unsolicited emails, especially those that offer job opportunities or other benefits.
  • Do not click on links in emails unless you are sure that the email is legitimate.
  • Hover over links before clicking on them to see the actual URL.
  • If you are unsure about the legitimacy of an email, contact the company directly to verify the authenticity of the email.
  • Use strong passwords for all of your online accounts and enable two-factor authentication whenever possible.

Ongoing vigilance in the face of cyber threats

Some of us survive from paycheck to paycheck. You would consider yourself at the bottom, right? But imagine looking for a job, and with money being tight, you're left to wonder if life could get any worse. Well, it could. Promised with a job, only to get scammed.

Operation Dream Job is unfortunate. It targeted the vulnerabilities, not in the technical sense, of individuals looking for employment. 

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Source for article
Abhay Bhargav

Abhay Bhargav

Abhay is a speaker and trainer at major industry events including DEF CON, BlackHat, OWASP AppSecUSA. He loves golf (don't get him started).

Abhay Bhargav