Twenty individuals have been arrested in connection with a huge cryptojacking scam in the Shandong province of China. Those involved are thought to have successfully hijacked 3.89 million personal computers since 2015.
Massive Chinese Cryptojacking Scam Uncovered
It’s estimated that the cryptojacking scam netted those involved more than 15 million yuan ($2.26 million). It was discovered back in January by technicians at Tencent, the largest gaming and social media company in China. According to a post from the Shandong government’s website, the malware used was hidden in software downloads that enable online gamers to add cheats to various titles.
Once installed, the malware used the computer systems of unsuspecting gamers to mine various cryptocurrencies. Those targeted include DigiByte, Decred, and Siacoin. It’s thought that these currencies were chosen because they can still be mined successfully without the kinds of application-specific chips needed to mine Bitcoin. Additionally, the systems of committed online gamers are often equipped with high-end graphics cards capable of mining cryptocurrency efficiently.
Many of those arrested were employees at Dalian Shenping Network Technology. One suspect whose surname is Yang is also believed to have cloned a popular video streaming service owned by Baidu. He then sold fake subscriptions to the fraudulent service which netted him another 200,000 yuan ($30,163).
In addition, Yang also created downloadable plugins that were spread through chat groups. These programs were also used to turn the computers of unsuspecting users into cryptocurrency miners for those involved.
A report in the South China Morning post alleges that the owner of Dilian Shengping was also in on the scam. Along with other employees from the company some 3.89 million computers were hijacked using the cryptojacking software. It’s believed that using the method, those involved were able to mine 26 million units of DigiByte, Decred, and Siacoin.
Cryptojacking has a detrimental impact on the machines of victims. It forces them to work much harder than they would normally and this places undue wear on components. In addition, extra power is required to run computers in this manner. This can lead to increased electricity bills for those affected.
Leonard Weese of the Bitcoin Association Hong Kong spoke to the publication about the cyber crime that has been gaining traction in recent years:
“If it’s done cleverly, then the software will only mine with excess capacity and you won’t notice from the outside.”
We’ve previously reported on other incidents of cryptojacking here at NewsBTC. However, none uncovered so far seem to have been anywhere near as successful as this example. That said, many such attacks are yet to be discovered. The issue is becoming so prevalent that digital security company Avast decided to hold a live demonstration showing just how destructive it could be at RSA 2018 in April of this year.