Olympic Destroyer is back, targeting chemical, biological threat protection entities

Big 5

Kaspersky Lab researchers tracking the Olympic Destroyer threat that famously struck the opening of the Winter Olympic Gamesin Pyeongchang with a destructive network worm have discovered that the hacking group behind it is still active.

It appears to be targeting Germany, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Ukraine and Russia, with a focus on organizations involved in protection against chemical and biological threats.

Olympic Destroyer is an advanced threat that hit organizers, suppliers and partners of the Winter Olympic Games 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea with a cybersabotage operation based on a destructive network worm.Many indicators pointed in different directions for the origins of the attack, causing some confusion in the info-security industry in February 2018.

A few rare and sophisticated signs discovered by Kaspersky Lab suggested that Lazarus group, a North Korea-linked threat actor, was behind the operation. However, in March, the company confirmedthat the campaign featured an elaborate and convincing false flag operation, and Lazarus was unlikely to be the source. Researchers have now found the Olympic Destroyer operation is back in action, using some of its original infiltration and reconnaissance toolset, and focusing on targets in Europe.

The threat actor is spreading its malware through spear-phishing documents that closely resemble the weaponized documents used in preparation for the Winter Olympics operation. One such decoy document referred to the ‘Spiez Convergence’, a bio-chemical threats conference held in Switzerlandand organized by the Spiez Laboratory, an organization that played a keyrole inthe Salisbury attack investigation. Another document was targeting an entity of the health and veterinary control authority of Ukraine. Some of the spear-phishing documents uncovered by researchers carry words in Russian and German.

All final payloads extracted from the malicious documents were designed to provide generic access to the compromised computers. An open-source and free framework, widely known as Powershell Empire, was used for the second stage of the attack.

Based on Kaspersky Lab telemetry and files uploaded to multi-scanner services, the interests of thisOlympic Destroyer campaign appear to have been entitiesinGermany, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Ukraine and Russia.


“The appearance, at the start of this year, of Olympic Destroyer with its sophisticated deception efforts, changed the attribution game forever and showed how easy it is to make a mistake with only fragments of the picture that are visible to researchers. The analysis and deterrence of these threats should be based on cooperation between the private sector and governments across national borders. We hope that by sharing our findings publicly, incident responders and security researchers will be better placed to recognize and mitigate such an attack at any stage in the future.” said VitalyKamluk, security researcher in Kaspersky Lab’s GReAT team.

In the previous attack, during the Winter Olympic Games, the beginning of the reconnaissance stage was a couple of months before the epidemic of the self-modifying destructive network worm. It is highly possible that Olympic Destroyer is preparing a similar attack with new motives. That is why we advise biological and chemical threat research entities to stay on high alert and launch an out-of-schedule security audit where possible.

Kaspersky Lab products successfully detect and block Olympic Destroyer-related malware.