In this episode of the podcast (#204) we’re joined by Josh Corman of CISA, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, to talk about how that agency is working to secure the healthcare sector, in particular vaccine supply chains that have come under attack by nations like Russia, China and North Korea.


Incidents like the Solar Winds hack have focused our attention on the threat posed by nation states like Russia and China, as they look to steal sensitive government and private sector secrets. But in the vital healthcare sector, nation state actors are just one among many threats to the safety and security of networks, data, employees and patients.

Joshua Corman is the Chief Strategist for Healthcare and COVID on the CISA COVID Task Force.
Joshua Corman is the Chief Strategist for Healthcare and COVID on the CISA COVID Task Force.

In recent years, China has made a habit of targeting large health insurers and healthcare providers as it seeks to build what some have described as a “data lake” of U.S. residents that it can mine for intelligence. Criminal ransomware groups have released their malicious wares on the networks of hospitals, crippling their ability to deliver vital services to patients and – more recently – nation state actors like North Korea, China and Russia have gone phishing – with a “ph” – for information on cutting edge vaccine research related to COVID 19.

How is the U.S. government responding to this array of threats? In this episode of the podcast, we’re bringing you an exclusive interview with Josh Corman, the Chief Strategist for Healthcare and COVID for the COVID Task Force at CISA, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Cryptocurrency Exchanges, Students Targets of North Korea Hackers

In this interview, Josh and I talk about the scramble within CISA to secure a global vaccine supply chain in the midst of a global pandemic. Among other things, Josh talks about the work CISA has done in the last year to identify and shore up the cyber security of vital vaccine supply chain partners – from small biotech firms that produce discrete but vital components needed to produce vaccines to dry ice manufacturers whose product is needed to transport and store vaccines.

Episode 194: What Happened To All The Election Hacks?

To start off I asked Josh to talk about CISA’s unique role in securing vaccines and how the Federal Government’s newest agency works with other stake holders from the FBI to the FDA to address widespread cyber threats.



As always,  you can check our full conversation in our latest Security Ledger podcast at Blubrry. You can also listen to it on iTunes and check us out on SoundCloudStitcherRadio Public and more. Also: if you enjoy this podcast, consider signing up to receive it in your email. Just point your web browser to securityledger.com/subscribe to get notified whenever a new podcast is posted. 

On the heels of the concerning security incident experienced by FireEye [view related post], during the investigation of its own incident, FireEye discovered that multiple updates issued by SolarWinds, a cybersecurity firm that many governmental and private companies use to monitor networks, were “trojanized” and malware was inserted into the updates between March and May of 2020.

The malware allowed Russian operatives to hack into several governmental agencies, including the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), State, National Institutes of Health, Commerce (National Telecommunications and Information Administration Office) and Treasury. In addition, it is reported that the Departments of Justice and Defense also were customers of SolarWinds. The DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued an emergency directive to all government agencies to disconnect and stop using SolarWinds.

This compromising situation is obviously concerning for national security, particularly when CISA’s Director Christopher Krebs was recently summarily dismissed and many other top leaders of the organization have departed when we most need strong leadership from the federal agency in charge of cybersecurity.

Unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t stop there. SolarWinds reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission this week that it believes that approximately 18,000 of its private company customers also could be affected by the malware.

Security experts are warning all private companies  to follow the CISA emergency directive to federal agencies and to disconnect and stop using SolarWinds until the details can be sorted out. Sound guidance for companies that use SolarWinds to mitigate risk until more information is available. It is important that executives and IT personnel be in close contact about whether the company uses SolarWinds and heed the CISA emergency directive to disconnect while the effects of the compromise are being determined.

The Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) this week issued Alert (AA20-301A) titled North Korean Advanced Persistent Threat Focus: Kimsuky warning U.S. businesses, and particularly those in the commercial sector, about tactics used by North Korean advanced persistent threat (APT) group Kimusky. https://us-cert.cisa.gov/ncas/alerts/aa20-301a

The Alert, co-authored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Cyber Command Cyber National Mission Force, “describes the tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) used by North Korean advanced persistent threat (APT) group Kimsuky—against worldwide targets—to gain intelligence on various topics of interest to the North Korean government.”

The key findings of the government on Kimsuky’s activities include:

  • The Kimsuky APT group has most likely been operating since 2012.
  • Kimsuky is most likely tasked by the North Korean regime with a global intelligence gathering mission.
  • Kimsuky employs common social engineering tactics, spearphishing, and watering hole attacks to exfiltrate desired information from victims.
  • Kimsuky is most likely to use spearphishing to gain initial access into victim hosts or networks.
  • Kimsuky conducts its intelligence collection activities against individuals and organizations in South Korea, Japan, and the United States.
  • Kimsuky focuses its intelligence collection activities on foreign policy and national security issues related to the Korean peninsula, nuclear policy, and sanctions.
  • Kimsuky specifically targets:
    • Individuals identified as experts in various fields,
    • Think tanks, and
    • South Korean government entities.
  • CISA, FBI, and CNMF recommend individuals and organizations within this target profile increase their defenses and adopt a heightened state of awareness. Particularly important mitigations include safeguards against spearphishing, use of multi-factor authentication, and user awareness training.

The methods used by Kimsuky include social engineering and spearphishing, which are outlined in the Alert and are worth reviewing. After obtaining access, Kimsuky uses BabyShark Malware, PowerShell or the Windows Command Shell to execute the malware.

The Alert lists the indicators of compromise, including domains that have been used by Kimsuky, which IT professionals may wish to consult.