Parasitic Coin Mining Creates Wealth, Destroys Systems

The increasing popularity of cryptocurrencies has inspired some people to pursue coin mining, essentially making money online. (Mining is the processing of transactions in the digital currency system, in which new transactions are recorded in a digital ledger called the blockchain. Miners help to update the ledger to verify and collect new transactions to be added to the blockchain. In return, miners earn Bitcoins, for example.) Mining is resource intensive and legal if it is done with the proper permissions.

McAfee Labs has recently seen a huge increase in a malware variant, commonly known as CoinMiner or CoinMiner-FOZU!, which takes control of a victim’s computer to mine new coins by infecting user executables, injecting Coinhive JavaScript into HTML files, and blocking the domains of security products to stop signature updates.

CoinMiner-FOZU!, which we analyzed, has led all major coin-miner malware in prevalence in 2018. (March figures are incomplete.) Source: McAfee Labs.

The following graphs show statistics and geographic data for recent CoinMiner-FOZU! detections:

W32/CoinMiner employs—without a user’s consent—machine resources to mine coins for virtual currencies. Its parasitic nature makes it rare as well as destructive: The malware does not put a unique marker on each file it infects. Thus subsequent infections by the same malware will reinfect the victim’s files.

Analysis

After launching, CoinMiner copies itself into two hardcoded locations:

  • %Windows%\360\360Safe\deepscan\ZhuDongFangYu.exe
  • %filesystemroot%:\RECYCLER\S-5-4-62-7581032776-5377505530-562822366-6588\ZhuDongFangYu.exe

These two files are hidden and read only:

The binary executes from the first location and starts the parasitic infection process. The malware prepends itself to user-executable files but, unlike traditional file infectors, it does not allow the original file to run. It targets files with extensions .exe, .com, .scr, and .pif. This malware does not check for multiple infections. If the threat is deleted and later reinfects the system, the same files will again be targeted.

To prevent victims from restoring clean copies of their files, the malware deletes both ISO (disk image) and GHO (Norton Ghost) files:

 

Once CoinMiner finishes infecting other executable files, it injects a Coinhive script into HTML files. The Coinhive service provides cryptocurrency mining software, which using JavaScript code can be embedded in websites and use the site visitor’s processing power to mine the cryptocurrency:

CoinMiner disables the user account control feature, which notifies the user when applications make changes to the system. Through registry updates, it also disables folder options and registry tools, and deletes safe mode.

From its second location on an infected system—the hidden autorun.inf at the file system root—the malware ensures that it starts after rebooting:

To avoid detection by security products, CoinMiner puts security software domains in the hosts file and redirects them to 127.0.0.1, the loopback address on the victim’s system. If users have not created a local website, they will see an error page in their browsers. By doing this, the malware ensures that no victim can receive an update from the security vendor.

When the victim runs the script-injected HTML files, the Coinhive script executes, downloading coinhive.min.js (hash: 4d6af0dba75bedf4d8822a776a331b2b1591477c6df18698ad5b8628e0880382) from coinhive.com. This script takes over 100% of the CPU for mining using the function setThrottle(0). The mining stops when the victim closes the infected HTML file:

The simple hosts-file injection, hiding in the recycle bin, and maximizing CPU usage suggest that this malware has been written by a novice author. McAfee advises all users to keep their antimalware products up to date.

McAfee Detections

  • W32/CoinMiner
  • CoinMiner-FOZU![Partial hash]
  • TXT/CoinMiner.m
  • HTML/CoinMiner.m
  • JS/Miner.c

Hashes (SHA-256)

  • 80568db643de5f429e9ad5e2005529bc01c4d7da06751e343c05fa51f537560d
  • bb987f37666b6e8ebf43e443fc4bacd5f0ab795194f20c01fcd10cb582da1c57
  • 4d6af0dba75bedf4d8822a776a331b2b1591477c6df18698ad5b8628e0880382

Leave a Comment

five × 2 =