Feeds

Hackers force innocent mobes to join ALTCOIN MINING GANGS

More likely to drain batteries than make cash for crooks

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Cybercrooks are turning smartphones into digital currency-mining bots using mobile malware.

The cyber-menace, dubbed CoinKrypt by mobile security firm Lookout, is capable of hijacking the processor on smartphones to mine digital currency, enriching hackers in the process.

CoinKrypt has been confined thus far to Spanish pirated software distribution forums, though oddly most detections have cropped up across the Pyrenees in France.

Lookout has seen variants of the malware targeting Litecoin, Dogecoin and Casinocoin, yet ignoring the much more popular Bitcoin1. "This leads us to believe this criminal is experimenting with malware that can take advantage of lower-hanging digital currency fruit that might yield more coins with less work," Marc Rogers, principal security researcher at Lookout, explains.

Digital currency mining is possible for any ordinary computer or smartphone using a special piece of software. Miscreants have cranked the malware so that it runs at full throttle on compromised devices, which Lookout explains poses problems in itself:

As malware goes, CoinKrypt is about as basic as they come. Comprised of just three small program sections or classes embedded in the target app, all it really does is kick off the the mining process. However this lack of complexity is part of what makes it dangerous. Normal mining software is set up to throttle the rate at which coins are mined to protect the hardware it is running on. This includes no such protection and will drive the hardware to mine until it runs out of battery. Overheating associated with this kind of harsh use can also damage to hardware.

At best, users affected by this malware will find their phones getting warm and their battery life massively shortened. There's also the possibility that sensitive data might leak from compromised devices.

"While it doesn’t steal any information from your phone, mining can be incredibly resource-intensive and, if allowed to run without any limits, could potentially damage hardware by causing it to overheat and even burn out," Lookout warns.

The crooks behind the scam are highly unlikely to make money through their malfeasance, according to an experiment by Lookout.

Despite the fact that this malware author was likely targeting the lower hanging digital currency fruit, mining likely isn’t worth the return on investment for this malware. When we tested the feasibility of mining using a Nexus 4 by using Android mining software such as the application “AndLTC”, we were only able to attain a rate of about 8Kh/s - or 8,000 hash calculations per second, the standard unit of measure for mining. Using a Litecoin calculator and the difficulty setting mentioned above we can see that this would net us 0.01 LTC after seven days non stop mining. That’s almost 20 cents.

The latest samples of the malware are now targeting an even newer, or less-used digital currency.

Lookout has put together a blog post on the threat, with tips on how to stay safe, here. A related article on BitCoin malware can be found here.

Bootnote

1 Bitcoin mining these days requires a specialist GPU-based rig to get anywhere and is way beyond the productive capacity of ordinary computers, much less smartphones. CoinKrypt is the digital equivalent of a gold rush claim jumper, according to Lookout.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
Carders punch holes through Staples
Investigation launched into East Coast stores
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.