Scammers Distribute Crypto-Mining Malware via Cracked Games

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(Photo: PonyWang / Getty Images)

There might be a hidden cost to downloading cracked versions of Grand Theft Auto V, Pro Evolution Soccer 2018, and other popular games. Scammers are reportedly using those pirated titles to distribute malware that secretly mines cryptocurrency using the infected systems.

BBC News reports that the malware is called Crackonosh, and according to the Avast security company, it’s already on tens of thousands of devices around the world. It doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down—Avast said it spreads to roughly 800 more systems a day.

Crackonosh appears to be most widely spread in the Philippines, Brazil, India, Poland, and the US, all of which have more than 10,000 known victims. (The actual number is likely higher because Avast’s data only includes systems on which its antivirus software has been installed.)

The scheme appears to be quite lucrative. Crackonosh’s operators are said to have earned more than $2 million worth of Monero, a cryptocurrency that’s become increasingly popular among criminals because it’s even harder to trace than Bitcoin and other crypto coins, to date.

This might seem like a fair trade—free games in exchange for mining cryptocurrency for someone else—but the reality is that mining is an energy-intensive process that can lead to performance and durability issues for the systems on which Crackonosh is operating.

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Avast says Crackonosh disables Windows Defender, Windows Update, and other security tools to evade detection. Removing the malware is a multi-step process that requires deleting scheduled tasks, files, and registry keys; Avast offers step-by-step instructions in its blog post.

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