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Hackers Are Releasing Free Games Laced With Cryptomining Malware

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Hackers are reportedly building cyptomining malware into copies of major games, in order to infect unsuspecting players’ computers.

A new report from BBC News has revealed that copies of AAA games like Grand Theft Auto, NBA 2K and Pro Evolution Soccer are being offered for free. These games, however, are infected with potentially devastating malware that allows hackers to infect your computer and access your personal details.

According to the report, once downloaded, these games use a form of malware known as Crackonosh to create digital currency. Apparently, criminals have already successfully harvested more than $2 million (£1.4 million) in a cryptocurrency known as Monero. Monero is a cryptocurrency used regularly by criminals due to the fact it is harder to trace than many other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.

The system was discovered by a team of researchers at Avast, an antivirus software company, who say that downloads of these “cracked” games have spread so much that they are now witnessing about 800 cases per day. Avast says that at least 220,000 computers have been affected so far across countries worldwide including the UK, the USA, the Philippines, Brazil, India and Poland. Gamers are likely being targeted due to the faster and more effective processing units needed for running high-end PC games.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of the malware is that once installed, it can protect itself from Windows updates and security software by uninstalling the programs that run them. The malware is also capable of slowing down the user’s computer, wearing out components through overuse, and increasing the electricity bill of the user.

Several high profile gaming and tech companies have been the victims of cyberattacks in recent years, including games developers Capcom and CD Projekt Red, which saw both employee data and game source code leaked to the internet respectively. But there is a clear and increasing need for individuals to take more care of their own digital safety and security online, especially for digitally heavy consumers like video game players, who spend a lot of time and money online.

The moral of the story here seems to be to not download free game files from forums, as you never know what could be inside.

Liam Wiseman is a Freelance News Writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @liamthewiseman

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