A new Russian malware designed to mine privacy-centric cryptocurrency Monero from unsuspecting user machines has been discovered by researchers at McAfee Labs, the latest coin mining malware to be uncovered in recent weeks.
The malware, known as WebCobra, steals computing power from affected devices, before silently mining for cryptocurrency in the background. Users are often unaware of the effects of the malware until they notice a loss of performance, or a higher-than-expected energy bill.
WebCobra is similar to other malware, according to experts at McAfee Labs, with attacks of this type dubbed “cryptojacking.” These attacks have become increasingly more common in recent months, particularly popular with scammers mining SegWit and Monero.
This latest discovery reveals a new type of malware, which researchers have linked to hackers based in Russia.
While some have suggested cryptojacking is less invasive than other types of hacks, the financial costs of mining some cryptocurrencies, coupled with the significant loss of processing power, mean this is far from a victimless crime.
According to a post by McAfee Labs, the costs for mining a single BTC can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. The report noted, “Coin mining malware is difficult to detect. Once a machine is compromised, a malicious app runs silently in the background with just one sign: performance degradation. As the malware increases power consumption, the machine slows down, leaving the owner with a headache and an unwelcome bill, as the energy it takes to mine a single bitcoin can cost from $531 to $26,170…”
The researchers said, “We believe this threat arrives via rogue PUP installers. We have observed it across the globe, with the highest number of infections in Brazil, South Africa, and the United States.”
These types of crypto mining scams have risen by as much as 500% in 2018 so far, leading to an intervention from Google to block obfuscated code from its Chrome Web Store, in a bid to stem the tide of attacks.
As crypto mining malware like WebCobra continues to become more sophisticated, it is likely that more systems will be unwittingly compromised by this type of cryptojacking attack.
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