The attack goes like this: users are redirected via malvertising chains to malicious websites.
A particular group is seizing this opportunity to deliver one of the most lucrative payloads at the moment: drive-by cryptomining for the Monero (XMR) currency.
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Stopping drive-by mining campaigns that rely on malvertising or malicious apps is becoming increasingly hard, although end users can usually protect themselves by running AV programs from Malwarebytes and many other providers. Although the method is claimed to be automated and without the user consent, the visitors are generally presented with a Captcha to solve and prove that they are humans and not robots. It displays a message that states, "Your device is showing suspicious surfing behavior". Thus, each of you can become a victim of fraud, so not worth the extra time to pass a captcha - it is better to visit another resource with similar themes.
The team of the antivirus software developer accidentally discovered the malware in late January while testing malvertising chains frequently associated with tech support scams through Internet Explorer and Chrome. However, when they switched to an Android, they were redirected via a series of hops to that cryptomining page.
"It seems odd that a static code (which is also hardcoded in the page's source) would efficiently validate traffic between human and bot".
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Interestingly, upon clicking entering the code, users are redirected to the home page, the report says.
What Malwarebytes discovered is that malicious apps and malvertising websites are redirecting millions of Android users to sites that are specifically created to run Monero mining software. "This is unfortunately common in the Android ecosystem, especially with so-called "free" apps", the researchers said.
Five identical domains have been identified using the same CAPTCHA code but with different Coinhive site keys. The first was registered in November 2017, while the latest of the five domains they found (of which there may be many more) was registered less than a month ago. We shared two of the most active sites with ad fraud researcher Dr. Augustine Fou, who ran some stats via the SimilarWeb web analytics service. All the domains together enjoyed about 800k visits daily, and at least 2 of the sites had more than 30 million visits monthly. When entered, the mining stops; however, until then, the affected smartphones are being utilized for every thread they are able to process.
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How much Monero could this operation yield, you wonder?