A little CPU power can go a long way in a criminal application. That was the lesson of the Mirai botnet and now also a lesson being applied by a new cryptojacker mining Monero user the power of the Android phone.
Researchers at Trend Micro recently discovered ANDROIDOS_HIDDENMINER, a piece of malware that embeds itself in an Android device, obfuscates its presence, and proceeds to use the device CPU to mine Monero, a cryptocurrency that has gained favor with criminals because of its anonymous, untraceable nature.
Researchers have seen an increase in cryptojacking in 2018 as cybercriminals turn to malware that seems more reliable than ransomware and less likely to draw the immediate attention of law enforcement. Cryptojackers have begun using delivery mechanisms like EternalBlue to plant themselves on systems, indicating that the same sort of criminal organizations that were banking on ransomware have now turned to the less aggressive cryptojackers for revenue.
Like other cryptojackers, ANDROIDOS_HIDDENMINER is far from benign. The demands that cryptocurrency mining places on a CPU are so great that the CPU can overheat causing the device to lock, fail, and be permanently damaged. Similar malware such as Laopi has been known to cause heat-related battery swelling to the point that the phone case actually bubbled and buckled, according to one report.
ANDROIDOS_HIDDENMINER is currently being delivered through a fake Google Play update app. So far, it has been available to users in China and India, though the Trend Micro researchers note that there's no technical reason that the malware couldn't enter other markets, and that they fully expect to see spread to other geographies in the future.
As for protection from the malware, in addition to anti-malware software on the device the researchers have recommendations that are basic, good, mobile device hygiene, including download "only from official app marketplaces, regularly update the device's OS (or ask the original equipment manufacturer for their availability), and be more prudent with the permissions you grant to applications."
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