Web3 Game Developers Targeted in Crypto Theft Scheme

A Russian-language cyberattack campaign impersonates legitimate game operations to spread various cross-platform infostealers.

Various cryptocurrency coins like Bitcoin spread on top of a wallet
Source: Stockphoto Graph via Shutterstock

A Russian threat actor is peppering game developers with fraudulent Web3 gaming projects that drop multiple variants of infostealers on both MacOS and Windows devices.

The ultimate goal of the campaign appears to be defrauding victims and stealing their cryptocurrency wallets, according to Recorded Future's Insikt Group, which discovered the malicious activity.

The extensive Russian-language campaign mimics legitimate projects by using slight alterations in project names and branding — even going so far as to have multiple fake social-media accounts impersonating the projects to make them seem authentic, according to a report published online.

In the attack, the main webpage of a project offers or links to installation files for the purported "game" software, ostensibly for use by developers. However, these files instead deliver either Atomic macOS Stealer for Intel- or ARM-based devices; Rhadamanthys; or RisePro, depending on the victim's operating system.

"The targeted nature of this campaign suggests that threat actors may perceive Web3 gamers as having a more acute vulnerability to social engineering, due to an assumed trade-off in cyber hygiene — meaning that Web3 gamers may have fewer protections in place against cybercrime — in the pursuit of profit," according to the report.

That profit comes in the form of cryptocurrency, as the actor is primarily targeting developers' crypto wallets with the intent of compromising those wallets. Web3 gaming refers to online games such as Axie Infinity and MixMob that are built on blockchain technology, which can result in financial gain for players who earn various cryptocurrencies.

"As wallet compromise continues to be the biggest threat in both Web3 and cryptocurrency security … we assess that wallet compromise is likely the end goal of this campaign," according to Insikt Group. Attackers also can use credentials harvested from the malicious activity "for an array of unauthorized account accesses," according to the report.

Indeed, the report outlines several social media reports of game developers falling victim to the scam and having their crypto wallets drained, including one who lost about 2.5 Ethereum, or about $8,000.

Setting a Trap Through Impersonation

The attack campaign comes in the form of what's called "trap phishing," whereby malicious actors duplicate and deploy Web3 project lookalikes.

Insikt researchers began investigating the malicious activity after Web3 smart contract auditor CertiK described a project in January called Astration that used fake job openings and non-fungible token NFT offerings to lure game developers into a trap-phishing campaign that spread infostealers.

The fraudulent project duplicated and recreated nearly all of the social media accounts associated with a legit project called Alteration, including reposting social-media content from legitimate accounts, establishing a direct copy of the project's Discord server, and delivering two types of malware.

Upon further research, Insikt found five additional fraudulent gaming projects, three of which were serving malicious files communicating with the same command-and-control (C2) server as those obtained from the Astration project, as well as two that were no longer active but were found to be similar to the active scams. Purported game names associated with the active projects were ArgonGame, DustFighter, and CosmicWay Reboot, while games associated with the inactive projects were Crypterium World and Myth Island.

Overall, the threat actors are delivering the campaign via "a resilient infrastructure, allowing them to quickly adapt by rebranding or shifting focus upon detection," according to Insikt.

Maintain Vigilance to Mitigate Risk

Insikt highlighted the necessity for both individuals and organizations to maintain continuous vigilance against threats and adopt mitigation strategies against campaigns that use phishing as an initial entry point. To that end, the group offered a number of mitigations in its report as well as included a list of indicators of compromise.

One is to provide comprehensive training to users — especially those involved in Web3 gaming or related industries — to recognize social engineering tactics associated with trap phishing. Game developers in particular should "scrutinize the legitimacy of Web3 projects advertised on social media," according to the report.

Organizations also should educate users on the well-known risks associated with downloading software from unverified sources and the importance of verifying the authenticity of project websites before installation.

Endpoint protection solutions updated with the latest threat intelligence — such as antivirus software that are capable of detecting and blocking known infostealer variants like Atomic, Stealc, Rhadamanthys, and RisePro — also can help organizations avoid compromise.

Organizations should also deploy multi-platform security measures to protect against malware infections across both macOS and Windows devices, including firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions, according to Insikt.

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Montalbano, Contributing Writer

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer, journalist, and therapeutic writing mentor with more than 25 years of professional experience. Her areas of expertise include technology, business, and culture. Elizabeth previously lived and worked as a full-time journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco, and New York City; she currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal. In her free time, she enjoys surfing, hiking with her dogs, traveling, playing music, yoga, and cooking.

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