Mobile

11/14/2017
08:00 AM
50%
50%

Russian Developer Snuck Cryptocurrency Mining into Android Apps

Apps found in Google Play turned mobile devices into cryptocurrency miners unbeknownst to their users, according to researchers from security firm Ixia.

A Russian developer installed cryptocurrency mining code in his popular crossword game app Puzzle as well as his in-game awards and bonuses app Reward Digger, without notifying users they would be mining cryptocurrency coins on his behalf, according to researchers.

Although it's not illegal for developers to put cryptocurrency-mining capabilities into their own apps, the issue becomes an ethical one if users are not aware their mobile devices are being used to mine cryptocurrency, says Steve McGregory, who leads the Application & Threat Intelligence (ATI) team at Ixia that recently studied the rigged apps.

Oxothuk, the user name of the independent developer who created the two apps, included crypto-mining features in the apps without adequately informing users, McGregory told Dark Reading. Cryptocurrency mining consumes CPU power, electricity, and data usage as information is passed during the mining process, he notes, which can degrade device performance.

ATI discovered Oxothuk's apps on Nov. 2 when it noticed their cryptocurrency mining capabilities. "We found he was not disclosing what the apps were doing and that is deceptive to users," MGregory says. Puzzle alone has had 5 million to 10 million downloads.

One of the unique aspects of the apps is the creator shared his user name "Oxothuk" for the mining pools, rather than only list his wallet address to authenticate the miners, McGregory notes. "He felt he was doing nothing wrong at all, whereas others who know they are being deceptive will not want to be found and will try to obfuscate their identity," says McGregory.

Indeed. Oxothuk, in an interview with Dark Reading, contends that he informed his users of his mining intent in the apps' terms and conditions. He says some hackers instead hide their cryptocurrency mining intent from users and chew up their CPU power without their permission.

Regardless, Reward Digger was taken offline by Google after ATI reported the app, and Puzzle was updated on Nov. 8. But McGregory notes that the Puzzle app continues to trick users into letting them earn "in-game coins" while Oxothuk earns real crypto-currency coins.

Join Dark Reading LIVE for two days of practical cyber defense discussions. Learn from the industry’s most knowledgeable IT security experts. Check out the INsecurity agenda here.

Related Content:

 

Dawn Kawamoto is an Associate Editor for Dark Reading, where she covers cybersecurity news and trends. She is an award-winning journalist who has written and edited technology, management, leadership, career, finance, and innovation stories for such publications as CNET's ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
6 Security Trends for 2018/2019
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  10/15/2018
6 Reasons Why Employees Violate Security Policies
Ericka Chickowski, Contributing Writer, Dark Reading,  10/16/2018
Getting Up to Speed with "Always-On SSL"
Tim Callan, Senior Fellow, Comodo CA,  10/18/2018
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Latest Comment: Too funny!
Current Issue
Flash Poll
The Risk Management Struggle
The Risk Management Struggle
The majority of organizations are struggling to implement a risk-based approach to security even though risk reduction has become the primary metric for measuring the effectiveness of enterprise security strategies. Read the report and get more details today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-10839
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
Qemu emulator <= 3.0.0 built with the NE2000 NIC emulation support is vulnerable to an integer overflow, which could lead to buffer overflow issue. It could occur when receiving packets over the network. A user inside guest could use this flaw to crash the Qemu process resulting in DoS.
CVE-2018-13399
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
The Microsoft Windows Installer for Atlassian Fisheye and Crucible before version 4.6.1 allows local attackers to escalate privileges because of weak permissions on the installation directory.
CVE-2018-18381
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
Z-BlogPHP 1.5.2.1935 (Zero) has a stored XSS Vulnerability in zb_system/function/c_system_admin.php via the Content-Type header during the uploading of image attachments.
CVE-2018-18382
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
Advanced HRM 1.6 allows Remote Code Execution via PHP code in a .php file to the user/update-user-avatar URI, which can be accessed through an "Update Profile" "Change Picture" (aka user/edit-profile) action.
CVE-2018-18374
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
XSS exists in the MetInfo 6.1.2 admin/index.php page via the anyid parameter.