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Hackers Are Infecting Pirate Games With Malware to Mine Crypto

Those 'free games' may come with a hidden price tag for your processor.

Security firm Avast has released a new report indicating that cyber criminals are targeting gamers with “mining malware” that is installed in free versions of games such as NBA 2K19, Grand Theft Auto V, Far Cry 5, The Sims 4, and Jurassic World Evolution. They are calling this new type of malware “Crackonosh."

"We looked into this report and others like it and have found a new malware we’re calling “Crackonosh” in part because of some possible indications that the malware author may be Czech. Crackonosh is distributed along with illegal, cracked copies of popular software and disables many popular antivirus programs as part of its anti-detection and anti-forensics tactics," wrote the security firm.

The threat actors made at least $2 million

So far, Avast has found that the malware has been used to generate $2 million worth of a cryptocurrency known as Moreno since at least June 2018 by quietly using various computers' processing powers to mine the cryptocurrencies.

Mining cryptocurrencies is a very energy and processing power intensive activity that is bound to slow down and even wear out one's computer. As such, victims of the scam may soon find themselves needing to replace their computers.

To give you a point of reference, Cambridge researchers say cryptocurrency "mining" for Bitcoin consumes around 121.36 terawatt-hours (TWh) a year. Bitcoin’s electricity consumption is above Argentina's (121 TWh), the Netherlands' (108.8 TWh), and the United Arab Emirates' (113.20 TWh). This has left some people questioning whether mining cryptocurrencies is even an ethical thing to do.

In this case, Avast researcher Daniel Benes told CNBC that some 220,000 users have been infected worldwide and 800 devices are being infected every day. And this is just the devices that have Avast's antivirus software installed which means the real number could be much higher.

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How it got caught on security researchers' radar

Crackonosh was spotted when some Avast customers complained their security software had disappeared. This is because the malware disables Windows Updates and uninstalls security software in order to protect itself.

Benes further advised that people stop stealing software.

 “As long as people continue to download cracked software, attacks like these will continue to be profitable for attackers,” Benes told CNBC. “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.”

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