Developers of malware that target cryptocurrency mining equipment are making it easier for cyber-attackers to gain access to personal computers and illegally mine cryptocurrencies. Authorities in China have apprehended 20 individuals for suspected complicity in the theft of more than $2 million over the past two years. Consequently, 11 of the suspects were released on bail, and 9 were detained.
According to the Chinese police report published on Monday 9 July, the suspects allegedly used a cryptocurrency mining malware that infected over a million computers in the city of Da Lian in China. The malware gained control of the computers in order to make a profit from illicit cryptocurrency mining.
Preliminary police investigations indicate that Digibyte, Decree, and Siacoin tokens were targeted and mined during the two-year time span. However, the Chinese authorities are yet to ascertain the exact amount the mine cryptocurrencies are worth owing to the fluctuating nature of the value of cryptocurrency.
How Computers Are Hacked for Illegal Cryptocurrency Mining
Malware attacks are fast becoming the easiest ways hackers steal money from unsuspecting victims, the hackers first create and embed a special malware code inside an internet harmless looking plug-in. Whenever the plug-in is installed in a victim’s computer, the malware detects when the CPU utilization is below 50%, and then it silently starts mining in the background. The cycle was repeated endlessly, with all the proceeds being sent back to the hackers.
The arrested suspects are said to be responsible for illegally gaining access to more than 389 million computers across China, another 5 million computers were receiving advertisement during the attack, while a total of one million PCs were mining for the hackers.
The cyber-attack was first detected when the security team at Tencent Keeper Program discovered a game plug-in containing the Trojan horse malware back on January 3. Yang Mobao a resident of Qinqzhou city was later identified as the leader of the group. He was subsequently apprehended by a combined task force of the Municipal Bureau of Network Security Detachment and Qingzhou Municipal Bureau at his residence on March 8.
Mobao confessed during his trial that he was able to access the computers using a game plug-in and that he profited around 268,000 yuan from the crime. During his statement, he disclosed that his hacking group developed a network of more than 100 agents to help spread the download of the illicit mining malware.
Illegal Cryptocurrency Mining on the Rise
The spate of cyber-attacks for cryptocurrency mining has increased drastically over the over the past few years. Hackers are now opting to mine minor cryptocurrencies due to their significantly lower computing power requirements, allowing the back-end mining process to continue more quietly and less likely to be discovered.