Hackers in China have infected over 1 million computers using a trojan virus that installs a secret mining application. Through this application, the hackers managed to mine more than $2 million worth of various cryptos. This news breaks just as The Pirate Bay has been exposed for running secret mining scripts in its user’s browsers. Hijacking CPU and GPU power to mine cryptos seems to be the latest trend amongst digital hackers following the rise in price of many easy to mine cryptos.
Well Planned Attacks
The trojan virus was planted within several different browser plugins – such as plugins for enhanced browsing speed and screen captures – which were then heavily advertised using a popular display advert tool – similar to Google display ads. These ads reached an estimated 5 million people within China. So far 20 suspects have been arrested, with an estimated 100 other individuals who are suspected to have taken part in distributing and controlling the secret mining virus. The attacks and secret mining took place over a 2-year period and the group managed to mine just over 26 million digibyte, decred and siacoins tokens.
Mining Coins with Lower Difficulties
The group had chosen to mine various altcoins with relatively low difficulty levels in order to remain secretive and not alert users. Crypto tokens that can be mined using a Proof of Work (PoW) method all have a difficulty level based on how many miners are active, how many coins are left and number transactions waiting to be confirmed. Generally, the less popular and the younger the coin, the lower the difficulty level. As the difficulty level was lower, the group could set the threshold lower – anywhere between 0.1 and 0.5 (10%-50%) of total CPU & GPU power- which kept the secret mining app from being detected by PC users. For coins with a lower difficulty, this threshold can easily yield a large sum of coins over a relatively short space of time.
How to Detect Secret Crypto Mining Viruses
If you are going to mine cryptos, it’s better if you get to see the profits and rewards from doing so – after all it’s your electricity and computer equipment. It’s vital you remain vigilant when downloading plugins and software from the internet, as well as when browsing the internet. Only download plugins and software from reputable sources and ensure you are on the correct URL before clicking download. Groups like this will often use a domain that looks exactly the same, but it will have a different extension (.net, .org etc) or a slight spelling mistake. Always double check these little bits before you accept any downloads. If you install an adblocker, it will also prevent most secret mining scripts on websites, such as on The Pirate Bay. If you want to take things to the next level, you can install a script blocker, but this could affect your experience on other websites. A simple adblocker should do the trick.
If you notice your computer has become much slower and is jittery, there could be a good chance you are running a secret mining script. If you have a suspicion, head to the task manager (ctrl+alt+delete – windows, press search and type “activity monitor” – mac) and look for any tasks that are taking up large amounts of CPU time. You can then click on these tasks and press force quit. This will shut the mining bug down. After you have killed the script, run an antivirus scan or take your computer to a professional to check and clean your computer. It is always best to be safe, a rogue mining script can damage your hardware.
Crypto Mining Instead of Adverts
Some websites that offer free content – such as Salon.com – have started implementing a popup box that gives users the choice between donating a small portion of their CPU power to mine crypto in exchange for an ad free experience. We believe if a user is given an option, then crypto mining could be the way forwards for websites that offer free content. More and more web users are beginning to install adblockers, so websites are making less through ad revenue. With large websites such as Salon.com and The Pirate Bay implementing these scripts, we could soon see other companies to following suit and offer crypto mining instead of ads on their sites.
Attacks of this style are becoming more commonplace, especially with internet users who are careless or exploring something for the first time and are unaware of scam links. There is a lot of money to be made in the crypto world, making it a number one choice for hackers and scammers. As with everything in the crypto world, make sure the sites you visit are genuine and if you don’t know why you have to download something, don’t. Knowledge is your best weapon in the defense against these types of hacks.