Game players are tricked into helping hackers get rich in cryptocurrency, after downloading games with hidden malware.
Versions of Grand Theft Auto V, NBA 2K19, and Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 are provided free of charge at stadiums.
But hidden within the code of these games is a piece of crypto-mining malware called Crackonosh, which secretly generates digital money once the game has been downloaded.
The criminals made more than $ 2m (£ 1.4m) in the scam, researchers said.
Investigators, Avast, say “cracked” games are spreading Crackonosh rapidly and security software companies now receive about 800 cases on computers every day.
And Avast finds malicious software only on devices where its antivirus is installed, so the real impact of Crackonosh is likely to be very high.
Malware has been found in more than a dozen countries, including:
- Philippines: 18,448 victims
- Brazil: 16,584 victims
- India: 13,779 victims
- Poland: 12,727 victims
- United States: 11,856 victims
- United Kingdom: 8,946 victims
When Crackonosh is installed, security measures include:
- disables Windows Updates
- uninstall all security software
And the cryptocurrency mining system running in the background, without the owner’s knowledge, can:
- slow down their computer
- wear parts through overuse
- to increase the victim’s electricity bill
“Crackonosh shows that trying to get free games can get you something you don’t expect – malware,” said Christopher Budd, of Avast.
Tracking of digital wallets of hackers has revealed that the scam has withdrawn more than $ 2m from the cryptocurrency Monero, Avast said.
And the company believes that the creator of the malware may have been Czech, hence the name, Crackonosh, meaning “mountain spirit” in Czech history.
In March, Cisco-Talos researchers discovered malware within multi-game cheating software.
Earlier this month, another recent hacking campaign aimed at players using the Steam platform was discovered by a team at G Data Software
In its latest cyber threats report, cyber security company Akamai claims to have received a 340% increase in attacks on gaming products and gamers alike since 2019.
Most cyber attacks involved game accounts that were stolen because of their high value for game items, which were sold on hacking sites.
“Criminals are targeting gamers at a growing rate,” said Akami security researcher Steve Ragan.
“Gamers players are people who are known for spending money on things they love and are very committed to, making them the same economic source of crime in the mine.”
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