Gamers beware: How hackers have made millions in crypto by targeting gamers through ‘cracked games’

Hackers have been infecting gamers worldwide by peddling ‘cracked versions of popular games’ like Grand Theft Auto, and mining crypto through their PCs.
According to researchers, these games have made over $2 million mining Monero, the privacy coin that has become a favorite for hackers.

Gamers beware – hackers have been targeting games in the most recent scheme, getting them to mine crypto for them and making millions off it. According to security researchers, a scheme that has been running for the past three years has made hackers millions of dollars. These hackers have been peddling cracked games, and infecting the gamers’ machines.

A report by antivirus firm Avast has dived into the latest scheme in the world of cybercrime. Avast started looking into the malware after users started complaining that their Avast antivirus programmes were missing from their computers. After an investigation, the company discovered a new malware known as Crackonosh. It assigned the malware this name “in part because of some possible indications that the malware author may be Czech.” (In Czech folklore, Crackonosh refers to the mountain spirit.)

Crackonosh is being hidden in free versions of games like Grand Theft Auto V, Far Cry 5, Pro Evolution Soccer 2018, Jurassic World Evolution and The Sims 4. The hackers make these free versions, also known as cracked games, available on torrent sites for unsuspecting gamers.

Once the gamers download the games, the malware installs itself on the PC. It then goes straight to shutting down any program that can hinder it, starting off with antivirus programs.

The malware is used for cryptojacking, which is the practice of mining cryptocurrencies on another person’s computer without their knowledge.

$2 million in profit from 220,000 machines

Crackonosh installs XMRig, a crypto miner for Monero. According to Avast, the Crackonosh hackers have mined at least $2 million worth of Monero since they started operating in 2018. In that time, they have infected over 220,000 computers worldwide, with the countries most affected being Brazil, the Philippines, India, the U.K, Poland and the U.S.


Avast notes:

As long as people continue to download cracked software, attacks like these will continue to be profitable for attackers. The key take-away from this is that you really can’t get something for nothing and when you try to steal software, odds are someone is trying to steal from you.

Speaking to CNBC, Avast researcher Daniel Benes revealed that one of the ways you can tell you’ve been infected is if your PC slows down or deteriorates through overuse. If your power bill spikes suddenly, you should also be concerned. He further revealed that Crackonosh is still active, infecting over 800 machines daily. This number could be significantly higher as Avast only identifies threats in machines that have its antivirus programme.

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