Microsoft seizes 50 web domains operated by North Korean hacking groups


Microsoft seizes 50 web domains operated by North Korean hacking groups

Following a court order that Microsoft has obtained, the US technology giant has been allowed to seize web domains used by North Korean hacking groups to launch cyber attacks on human rights activists, researchers and others.


A US federal court in Virginia allowed Microsoft to take control of 50 domains operated by a group dubbed Thallium that fraudulently used Microsoft brands and trademarks to trick online users.


After the seizure, the sites can no longer be used to execute attacks.


According to Tom Burt, Microsoft's vice president for customer security and trust, this network was used to “target victims and then compromise their online accounts, infect their computers, compromise the security of their networks and steal sensitive information”.


"Based on victim information, the targets included government employees, think tanks, university staff members, members of organizations focused on world peace and human rights, and individuals that work on nuclear proliferation issues. Most targets were based in the US, as well as Japan and South Korea,” he said.


The hacking group sent spoofed emails that appeared to come from Microsoft which tricked users into revealing their login credentials, a technique known as spear phishing. After getting the victim's credentials, the hackers can access emails, contact lists, calendar appointments and other data and often forwards any new emails to the attackers. The hackers also used malicious software which can access other data on a victim's computer.


Microsoft had been investigating the group through its Digital Crimes Unit and Threat Intelligence Center. This was the fourth nation-state group Microsoft has acted against and follows similar moves against operations from China, Russia and Iran, dubbed Barium, Strontium and Phosphorus, respectively.


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