Malware called “Crackonosh” has been found in 222,000 compromised computers that were used to download illegal, torrented versions of popular video games, including “NBA 2K19” and “Grand Theft Auto V,” according to a report from security company Avast published Thursday.
The virus, which has been circulating since at least June 2018, installs crypto-mining software that has yielded its authors over $2 million worth of monero.
Monero is a privacy coin that is often used by cybercriminals because it is much more difficult to trace than other cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. Monero-focused crypto-mining attacks are relatively common: The Pirate Bay, a website where users can download movies, music, software and games, announced in 2018 it would be “cryptojacking” visitors’ processing power to mine for monero, and in 2020, a botnet called “Vollgar” was found to be targeting Microsoft’s SQL servers to mine for monero, as well.
According to Avast’s analysis, Crackonosh successfully operated for years because it had built-in mechanisms to disable security software and updates, which made it difficult for users to detect and remove the program.
The malware is thought to have originated in the Czech Republic, but it has a global reach. Cases in the United States make up only 5% of the total.
Avast’s blog post addresses the spread of the malware and teaches affected users how to uninstall the program. The blog’s author, Daniel Benes, also shares some words of wisdom:
“The key take-away from this is that you really can’t get something for nothing and when you try to steal software, odds are someone is trying to steal from you.”