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HHS Issues Cyber Notice About Potential Threat from “Hidden Cobra”

June 16, 2017
by Heather Landi
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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has issued a cyber notice to the healthcare industry about a potential threat to critical infrastructure sectors, such as healthcare, by a malicious cyber group called Hidden Cobra.

In the notice, HHS OCR officials wrote, “Two reports were released by Microsoft and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this week about multiple vulnerabilities with Microsoft products, including the Windows operating system, and a threat by a group DHS labels as ‘Hidden Cobra.’ Both relate to the same type of vulnerability that allowed WannaCry to spread. Importantly, simply installing the Microsoft patches will not necessarily protect form ‘Hidden Cobra’ since they use a wide range of vulnerabilities.”

Further, according to a DHS alert issued earlier this week, Hidden Cobra targets are “…the media, aerospace, financial, and critical infrastructure sectors in the United States and globally”, so HHS states that “targeting of the Healthcare and Public Health sector systems and devices in the U.S. is possible. “

Healthcare organizations are encouraged to review the HHS Cybersecurity Program compilation of technical information and resources to support their efforts in mitigating this threat.

The DHS alert states, “This alert provides technical details on the tools and infrastructure used by cyber actors of the North Korean government to target the media, aerospace, financial, and critical infrastructure sectors in the United States and globally. Working with U.S. Government partners, DHS and FBI identified Internet Protocol (IP) addresses associated with a malware variant, known as DeltaCharlie, used to manage North Korea’s distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) botnet infrastructure. This alert contains indicators of compromise (IOCs), malware descriptions, network signatures, and host-based rules to help network defenders detect activity conducted by the North Korean government. The U.S. Government refers to the malicious cyber activity by the North Korean government as Hidden Cobra.”

DHS officials also state, “If users or administrators detect the custom tools indicative of Hidden Cobra, these tools should be immediately flagged, reported to the DHS National Cybersecurity Communications and Integration Center (NCCIC) or the FBI Cyber Watch (CyWatch), and given highest priority for enhanced mitigation.”

The DHS alert identifies IP addresses linked to systems infected with DeltaCharlie malware and provides descriptions of the malware and associated malware signatures. “DHS and FBI are distributing these IP addresses to enable network defense activities and reduce exposure to the DDoS command-and-control network. FBI has high confidence that Hidden Cobra actors are using the IP addresses for further network exploitation,” DHS states.

More details about this alert can be found here on the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team website (https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/alerts/TA17-164A).

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