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Think Twice: Several Free Games Infect PCs with Cryptojacking Malware

by Duey Guison  June 29, 2021

Admit it: we all get excited every time the likes of Steam or Epic announces free games at their store. Both platforms are one of the many ways people get to enjoy great games for free–Google Play Store, Apple App Store, Huawei App Gallery, and more also offer a number of interesting games to play without spending a dime.

However, not all free games found on the internet are deemed safe, as a recent report reveals that a malware called “Crackonosh” has infected PCs as a result of downloading free cracked games from forums and other dubious sources.

The said malware was discovered by Avast, and explained that Crackonosh has been around since 2018, infecting over 220,000 computers in the process. The said malware was found when users download “free” games on forums and torrent sites. Among these “free” games include cracked versions of Grand Theft Auto V, NBA 2K19, Far Cry 5, and Pro Evolution Soccer 2018.

The said malware installs on the infected PC once the user downloads the cracked free game, and mines Monero without the user’s knowledge. What Crackonosh–which means “mountain spirit” in Czech folklore–does is it installs itself by replacing critical Windows system files and impairing Windows Safe mode in the process. As it installs itself, it disables security software and OS updates, making it extremely hard to remove.

A diagram of how Crackonosh works.

Because it is very difficult to know if your computer is infected by it, users will only discover that there’s a problem when their system slows down, their components wear out, and when electricity bills go up drastically. The latter two are true, as crypto mining by itself consumes power and other resources, which leads to components breaking down faster than expected.

In Avast’s report, it has found Crackonosh affecting several countries, with the Philippines being on the top spot with 18,448 victims. Because of the extent of computers affected, cybercriminals using this malware have earned over $2 million dollars in Monero crypto–-and still continues to be a popular digital currency of choice by cybercriminals.

With that being said, we in Unbox strongly advise everyone to only get free games at legitimate online game stores and NOT via forums or Torrent. Remember: if a paid game is made free on other platforms (and NOT on official stores like Epic or Steam), better think twice.

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