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Hackers Putting Crypto Mining Malware Inside Video Games

The next time you set off on a mission in Grand Theft Auto 5, you might be unwittingly taking part in a real-life heist.

That’s according to CNBC, which reported on Friday (June 25) that cybercriminals have begun planting “mining malware” in certain video games to get access to cryptocurrencies.

Citing info from a report by the security firm Avast, the network says the malware is being concealed in free versions of games such as The Sims 4, NBA 2K19, Far Cry 5 and Grand Theft Auto 5, which are available to download from torrent sites. Once installed, the malware — dubbed “Crackonosh” — uses the computer’s processing power to mine for crypto. So far, this method has generated $2 million in a currency known as Moreno over the last three years.

The security firm estimates that around 220,000 users have been infected around the globe, with 800 devices becoming infected daily, primarily in Brazil, India and the Philippines, as well a significant number of cases in the U.S. But Avast only spots malware on devices running its software, which means the number of infected computers could be much greater.

According to Avast, users whose computers become infected may see their machines slow or break down through overuse, as well as a higher-than-normal electric bill. “It takes all the resources that the computer has, so the computer is unresponsive,” Avast’s Daniel Benes told CNBC.

Cases where malware impacts games are not unheard of, with researchers at Cisco-Talos finding malware inside cheat software for several games in March, as well as a hacking campaign targeting Steam gamers earlier this month. Altogether, cyberattacks on gamers have risen 340 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cryptocurrency has also been at the center of a number of cyberattacks outside the gaming world this year. As PYMNTS reported earlier this month, there are growing instances of bitcoin being used to demand ransoms following high-profile attacks on gas pipelines and meat processors. This has led the Biden administration to look at what it has called a “federal response” targeting hackers.

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