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Crypto miners extend their reach to smartphones

Experts at Kaspersky Lab unearth legitimate apps embedded with crypto mining software

Crypto miners extend their reach to smartphones
Cyber criminals could be mining bitcoins from your phone without your knowledge.

Kaspersky Lab experts have found evidence showing that criminals are adding mining capacities to legitimate mobile apps.

Crypto mining involves the illicit hijacking of computing resources of unsuspecting PC users to undertake the complex equations needed to verify blockchain transactions, earning miners crypto currency in the process.    

Football-related apps are the most preferred targets, according to the researchers. Their main modus operandi is to broadcast football videos while discreetly mining crypto currencies. For this, developers used the Coinhive JavaScript miner. When users launch the broadcast, the application opens an HTML file with the JavaScript miner embedded, converting visitors’ CPU power to the Monero cryptocurrency for its author’s benefit. The applications were spread via the Google Play Store and the most popular of them was downloaded around 100,000 times. Nearly all (90%) of these downloads originated from Brazil.

Legitimate applications, responsible for VPN-connections, became the second target for malicious miners. A VPN is a virtual private network, through which users access web resources that would otherwise be unavailable due to local restrictions. Kaspersky Lab found the Vilny.net miner, which is able to monitor the battery charge and the temperature of the device, was used to obtain money with less risk for the attacked gadgets. For this, the app downloads an executable from the server and launches it in the background. Vilny.net was downloaded over 50,000 times – mostly by users in Ukraine and Russia.

 “Our findings show that authors of malicious miners are expanding their resources and developing their tactics and approach to perform more effective crypto-currency mining. They are now using legitimate thematic applications with mining capacities to feed their greed. As such, they are able to capitalize on each user twice – firstly via an ad display, and secondly via discreet crypto-mining,” said Roman Unuchek, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab.

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