Microsoft has linked a cyberattack on GitHub customers to a previously unknown North Korean hacking group named “Jade Sleet” or “TraderTraitor.” The attack involved a low-volume social engineering campaign targeting personal accounts of employees in the technology sector, especially those related to blockchain, cryptocurrency, and online gambling industries.
The hackers used repository invitations and malicious npm packages to compromise victims. GitHub confirmed that the group mainly targets users associated with cryptocurrency and blockchain organizations, as well as vendors used by these firms.
The attack chain initiated with Jade Sleet impersonating developers or recruiters, creating fake personal accounts on GitHub and other social media platforms like LinkedIn, Slack, and Telegram. The group contacted targets, inviting them to collaborate on a GitHub repository and convincing them to clone and execute its contents, containing software with malicious npm dependencies.
These malicious packages act as first-stage malware, downloading and executing second-stage malware on victims’ machines. The hackers carefully published the malicious packages only after extending fraudulent repository invitations to limit exposure to the malicious tools.
Cybersecurity experts at Phylum Security echoed many of GitHub’s findings. GitHub took action by suspending the associated npm and GitHub accounts, publishing attack indicators, and filing abuse reports with domain hosts used by the attackers. Users were urged to check if they were contacted by the group and to be cautious about any contact through social media platforms.
North Korean hackers have a history of targeting cryptocurrency exchanges, banks, and e-commerce platforms, stealing billions of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency to support their government’s efforts amid international sanctions. CISA had previously warned about North Korean cyber actors targeting organizations in the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry through spearphishing campaigns luring victims with high-paying job offers and malware-laced cryptocurrency applications.