North Korea-linked Sun Team APT group targets deflectors with Android Malware

Haythem Elmir

A North Korea-linked APT group tracked as Sun Team has targeted North Korean deflectors with a malicious app that was published in the official Google Play store.

A North Korea-linked APT group tracked as Sun Team has targeted North Korean deflectors with a malicious app that was published in the official Google Play store.

The campaign, named RedDawn by security experts at McAfee, is the second campaign attributed conducted by the same APT group this year.

Experts noticed that this is the first time the APT abused the legitimate Google Play Store as the distribution channel. In a past campaign spotted in January, a group of North Korean deflectors and journalists was targeted via social networks, email, and chat apps.

Researchers at McAfee discovered that the malware was on Google Play as ‘unreleased’ versions and it accounts for only around 100 infections, they also notified it to Google that has already removed the threat from the store.

Once installed, the malware starts copying sensitive information from the device, including personal photos, contacts, and SMS messages, and then sends them to the threat actors.

McAfee found that the hackers managed to upload three applications to Google Play – based on the email accounts and Android devices used in the previous attack. The apps include Food Ingredients Info, Fast AppLock, and AppLockFree. They stayed in Google Play for about 2 months before being removed.

“Our recent discovery of the campaign we have named RedDawn on Google Play just a few weeks after the release of our report proves that targeted attacks on mobile devices are here to stay.” reads the post published by the security firm.

“We found three apps uploaded by the actor we named Sun Team, based on email accounts and Android devices used in the previous attack.”

The experts discovered three apps in the app store, the first one named 음식궁합 (Food Ingredients Info), provides information about food, the remaining apps, Fast AppLock and AppLockFree, are security applications.

While the 음식궁합 and Fast AppLock apps are data stealer malware that receives commands and additional executable (.dex) files from a cloud control server, the  AppLockFree is a reconnaissance malware that prepares the installations to further payloads.

The malware spread to friends, asking them to install the malicious apps and offer feedback via a Facebook account with a fake profile promoted 음식궁합.

“After infecting a device, the malware uses Dropbox and Yandex to upload data and issue commands, including additional plug-in dex files; this is a similar tactic to earlier Sun Team attacks.” continues the report.  “From these cloud storage sites, we found information logs from the same test Android devices that Sun Team used for the malware campaign we reported in January,”

The logs collected by the malicious apps appear similar to other logs associated with the Sun Team APT group, in an apparently poor opsec the attackers used email addresses for malware’ developers associated with the North Korea group.