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Photo: Evgeny Agoshkov\TASS via Getty Images

North Korea-linked hackers have expanded their campaign to spy on experts researching nuclear deterrence, North Korea’s nuclear submarine program and North Korean economic sanctions, according to research from Prevailion.

The big picture: Countries often use espionage to prepare for upcoming actions like new sanctions, improve their bargaining position by better understanding their adversary's goals, or to see what other people know. This could be an example of any of those.

The North Korea-linked "Kimsuky" group has been previously tied to campaigns targeting South Korean entities and the academic sector. In this campaign, Kimsuky has sent phishing emails with Microsoft Word documents that can implant with malware. To a reader, the documents would appear to be:

  • A U.S. Treasury document granting a sanctions license to the Carnegie Corporation
  • A university affiliate's report on new North Korean ballistic missile submarines
  • Speaker notes from a recent nuclear deterrence conference

While researchers have already publicly discussed the last document being used to hack systems, the first 2 documents potentially show an escalation in the scope of the campaign.

  • The malware Kimsuky uses checks has been recently upgraded. The malware has added abilities to detect new antivirus programs, and now hides some of its coding in an obscure image file format that antivirus programs might not check.

Go deeper

Updated 31 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Inauguration Day dashboard

U.S. Capitol and stage are lit at sunrise ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden. Photo: Patrick Semansky - Pool/Getty Images

President Biden has delivered his inaugural address at the Capitol, calling for an end to the politics as total war but warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country.

What's next: Biden, Harris and nearly all the living former presidents and their spouses lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery.

Inaugural address: Biden vows to be "a president for all Americans"

Moments after taking the oath of office, President Biden sought to soothe a nation riven by political divisions and a global pandemic, while warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country and defeat a "virus that silently stalks the the country."

Why it matters: From the same steps that a pro-Trump mob launched an assault on Congress two weeks earlier, the new president paid deference to the endurance of American political institutions.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated as president and vice president respectively in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Top Democrats and Republicans gathered for the peaceful transfer of power only two weeks after an unprecedented siege on the building by Trump supporters to disrupt certification of Biden's victory. Trump did not attend Wednesday's ceremony.