Security researchers described the code used to attack the 2018 Pyeongchang winter Olympics as ‘Frankenstein-like.’ In part two of our video series, hacker:HUNTER Olympic Destroyer, they explain how the malware was designed to point in multiple directions.
Who would dare to hack the Olympics?
The designer of an extraordinary piece of code lodged it in a system where it remained undetected for months. Part two of hacker:HUNTER Olympic Destroyer explores the nature of the attack, its process and why ‘Frankenstein-like’ code made it one of the most mysterious advanced persistent threat (APT) attacks in history.
Olympic Destroyer was the perfect example of an APT. What are they, and why are they so harmful?
APTs attack over time
APTs are sophisticated hacks that often wait for the perfect time to strike to create maximum damage. They lodge themselves in a system and steal critical data over weeks, months or years. Those behind these attacks build complex software for intentional damage – from espionage and sabotage to data theft.
Highly organized groups use APTs
APTs are notoriously associated with highly organized groups. They attack high-status targets like countries or large corporations, notably in manufacturing and finance, aiming to compromise high-value information like intellectual property, military plans and sensitive user data.
Their high-profile targets will have secure networks and defenses, so threats must stay undetected as long as possible. The longer the attack goes on, the more time attackers have to map the system and plan to steal what they want.
Motives behind attacks vary, from harvesting intellectual property to gaining advantage in an industry, to stealing data for use in fraud. One thing is clear: APTs cause severe damage.
The ‘perfect’ APT
Olympic Destroyer was the perfect APT. A highly-organized group attacked a national Olympic committee, and it worked.
The ‘confusion bomb’ had been undetected in the computer system for four months, biding its time to strike. Being in the system gave them time to find weak spots and pain points to make the attack more devastating. When it finally surfaced, all hell broke loose.
Crippling the whole IT system
By directly attacking the Olympics’ data centers in Seoul, South Korea, Olympic Destroyer cut employees’ access to network computers. Because Wi-Fi was out, Olympic building security gates stopped working, coverage stopped, and the whole infrastructure went offline. The Pyeongchang IT team was staring down the barrel of a potential geopolitical disaster.
Stay tuned for episode three, where we unravel the IT team’s ingenious response and find out who did it. Any guesses? Go to hacker:HUNTER to stay up to speed.