North Korea is now Targeting Crypto Users with Macs

AppleJeus Malware Hack

The Lazarus group has earned quite a reputation for themselves in cyber-security circles.

This group of North Korean hackers have been responsible for some of the most well known intrusions in the past few years. For example, they were behind the Sony Pictures hack in 2014, the Bangladesh central bank heist in 2016 and the Wannacry ransomware outbreak in 2017.

It is safe to say that these are quite effective operators.

However, with the popularity of cryptocurrencies, the Lazarus group has changed their attack vectors and are targeting every day users with Malware.

The latest report now has the hackers using MacOS malware to hoover up information from those cryptocurrency users who work on Macbooks.


This was the first time that the Lazarus group has developed malware to target Mac users. Indeed, Mac operating systems are far less susceptible to Malware than Windows based systems.

It was a surprise for researchers at Kaspersky Lab to have learned about the latest Lazarus attempt to target users with there macOS malware. They have labelled it “AppleJeus”.

This was first spotted on machines that were being used by cryptocurrency company in Asia. Indeed, this is no coincidence as the Lazarus group has often targeted cryptocurrency related businesses and exchanges in South Korea.

How Does it Work?

AppleJeus hides itself inside the code of a seemingly legitimate piece of cryptocurrency trading software called Celas Trade Pro. The user will download the app from the website of the developer. When it is first downloaded, there are no signs that anything could be off. The app appears to operate normally.

Celas Trade Screenshot
Screenshot of Celas Trade, the offending program. Source: kaspersky labs

Once the app is installed on the device, it will request to update the software. This sort of request is present in authentic software and as such will not trigger any alerts. However, there is malicious code that is inside of this update.

The moment that the update is installed, it will scan the computer and gather as much information as possible. This will then be sent back the hacker’s server so that they can make a decision on whether the person is worth attacking.

If they think that there is valuable information (or cryptocurrency) on the machine then they will instruct the software to install a trojan called “Fallchill”. For those who do not know, Trojans are malicious malware that will install a “backdoor” into the machine

Fallchill is a particularly robust trojan and can gather a great deal of information from the machine. This includes data such as financial information, login credentials and of course, information about cryptocurrency trading accounts.

Once the hackers have this personal information, they can either access your online accounts or they can conduct other spear phishing attacks against you. It is indeed a troubling development and according to Vitaly Kamluk of Kaspersky:

“For macOS users this case is a wakeup call, especially if they use their Macs to perform operations with cryptocurrencies”

So now that you know North Korea is actively trying to get their hands on your cryptocurrency, how do you protect yourself?

Keeping Safe from AppleJeus

The most effetive way to protect yourself from this Malware is to make sure that you only download software that is well known and reputable. This of course goes without saying but it is far too often that relatively inexperienced cryptocurrency traders will avoid doing their research.

The researchers have recommended that people and businesses do not download the software of Celas Trade. Even though they appear to have a a good reputation and verified digital certificates, this cannot be fully trusted.

You should also consider investing in some effective anti-malware software that you should use to scan all files that you have downloaded. This should be done even if you trust the source because hackers have been known to infiltrate trusted websites.

Cryptocurrency Security 101

Even if you are unlucky enough to have your machine infected with crypto grabbing malware, basic crypto security best practices will still protect you.

If you do a great deal of online trading with your cryptocurrency then it is essential that you secure your accounts with 2 factor authentication. This way, you are at least able to reduce the number of attack vectors.

You should always secure your large cryptocurrency holdings in hardware wallet. This is because the wallets operate external from the machine and hence the trojan cannot read your private key information.

Caution and a healthy does of scepticism will protect you from the an unhealthy does of AppleJeus.

Featured Image via Fotolia.

Nic is an ex Investment Banker and current crypto enthusiast. When he is not sitting behind six screens trading Bitcoin, he is maintaining his numerous mining rigs. Twitter: @nicrypto