According to a study published by the security company Avast, cyber criminals target players who want to become crypto-rich with “mining malware”.
The so-called “Crackonosh” malware is hidden in free versions of games like NBA 2K19, Grand Theft Auto V, Far Cry 5, The Sims 4 and Jurassic World Evolution that are available for download on torrent sites, Avast said Thursday .
Once installed, Crackonosh quietly uses the computing power of the computer to mine cryptocurrencies for the hackers. The malware has been used since at least June 2018, according to Avast, to generate a $ 2 million cryptocurrency called Monero.
Avast researcher Daniel Benes told CNBC that infected users may notice that their computers are slowing down or deteriorating from overuse, while their electricity bills can also be higher than normal.
“It takes all the resources the computer has to keep the computer from responding,” he said.
According to Benes, around 220,000 users worldwide have been infected, and 800 devices are infected every day. However, Avast only detects malicious software on devices that have the antivirus software installed, so the actual number could be significantly higher. Brazil, India and the Philippines are among the hardest hit countries, while many cases have also occurred in the US.
The researchers said that Crackonosh takes several steps to try to protect itself after it’s installed, including disabling Windows updates and uninstalling security software.
As for the origin of the malware, Avast believes the author could be Czech – Crackonosh means “mountain spirit” in Czech folklore.
Avast discovered the malware after customers reported the company’s antivirus was missing on their systems and provided an example of a user post on Reddit. The company said it investigated this and other similar reports.
“In summary, Crackonosh shows the risks involved in downloading cracked software and shows that it is very profitable for attackers,” wrote Benes.
“As long as people keep downloading cracked software, attacks like this one will continue to be profitable for attackers,” added Benes. “The main takeaway from this is that you really can’t get anything for free, and if you’re trying to steal software, the chances are someone is trying to steal you.”
This isn’t the first time malware has impacted games. Cisco-Talos researchers discovered malware in cheat software for several games in March. Meanwhile, a new hacking campaign targeted gamers through the Steam platform earlier this month.
According to a report from Akamai Security Research this week, cyberattacks on gamers rose 340% during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Criminals are relentless, and we have the data to prove it,” said Steve Ragan, Akamai security researcher and author of the State of the Internet / Security report.
“We see a remarkable persistence in the defense mechanisms of the video game industry, which are tested daily – and often hourly – by criminals looking for vulnerabilities to crack servers and reveal information. We also see numerous group chats forming on popular social networks dedicated to sharing attack techniques and best practices. “