Home Security Tech support scam used to run cryptocurrency miner in Chrome, IE

Tech support scam used to run cryptocurrency miner in Chrome, IE

Researchers at security firm Trend Micro say they have discovered a new campaign that aims to implant a cryptocurrency miner when users visit infected websites using Chrome or Internet Explorer.

Named the EITest campaign, it uses a tech support scam to deliver the cryptocurrency miner written in JavaScript.

Trend Micro said in a month it had identified 990 compromised websites which had a malicious script that diverted a visitor to a second site related to the tech support scam. The campaign began in January.

The addition of the cryptocurrency miner was a recent twist. "Of late, though, the campaign has added the Coinhive JS miner into ongoing attacks, turning the victim’s computer into a Monero cryptocurrency miner," the researchers said.

"Analysis also revealed that this JS cryptocurrency miner is the same 'Coinhive' JS miner found embedded in The Pirate Bay’s website."

EITest coinhive 2

Country distribution of EITest’s tech support scam.

Most of the victims have been in Japan but a small number have been affected in Australia as well.

On visiting a compromised website, the browser being used if identified. Then a phishing script is injected directly into the web page if the user’s browser is Chrome. Initial tests show that Firefox is not affected.

"The phishing script is coded to notify the user to download the Hoefler Text font to properly display the page, but it actually downloads a malicious executable file," the researchers said.

"EITest takes this up a notch: If the user’s browser is Internet Explorer, he/she is redirected to a tech support phishing page containing the Coinhive Monero-mining JS script."

EITest coinhive 3

Screenshot of the tech support scam web page.

The website hosting the tech support scam masquerades as a legitimate Windows notification, alerting victims that the system has been infected with malware.

"It will prod the user to call their 'technical department' to resolve the issue," Trend Micro said. "Behind the scenes, however, the web page will load script from Coinhive’s server and launch a JS cryptocurrency miner. Users won’t notice that their system has been affected apart from system lags or performance issues."

But there was a simple way to stop the miner from running: one could just close the web page as the script in question had no persistence mechanism.

Graphics: courtesy Trend Micro

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.