Cryptocurrency mining bot spreading via Facebook Messenger in Chrome for desktop

Kevin Parrish
Digital Trends
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Facebook Messenger


Security firm Trend Micro reports that a cryptocurrency mining bot is now spreading through Facebook Messenger in Google’s Chrome browser for desktop. Called Digmine, it was first spotted in South Korea, and has since spread into Azerbaijan, the Philippines, Thailand, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Vietnam. The bot will likely show up in other regions soon given how fast it’s spreading.

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The report doesn’t say how Digmine began spreading through Facebook Messenger, but it appears in the chat client as a non-embedded video file. When the recipient clicks on the file, the so-called video — which is actually an executable script — downloads components from a remote server to install a Chrome extension. This extension will either continue to stream a bogus video from a “decoy” website, or log onto Facebook to spread the malicious love to friends.

Typically, Chrome extensions can only be installed through the Chrome Web Store. But the Digmine setup bypasses this requirement by installing the extension through a command-line interface. During the installation process, the script will receive its configuration through the remote server, and instructions to either load the site hosting the bogus video — which contains additional configurations — or access Facebook if users have Chrome set to automatically log onto the social network.

“A known modus operandi of cryptocurrency-mining botnets, and particularly for Digmine (which mines Monero), is to stay in the victim’s system for as long as possible,” Trend Micro states. “It also wants to infect as many machines as possible, as this translates to an increased hashrate and potentially more cybercriminal income.”

While running, Digmine will silently mine for digital currency in the background as infected users surf the internet. The mining component, listed as codec.exe on the PC, is a modified version of an open-source Monero miner called XMRig. It remains in contact with a remote server as it silently generates the Monero coins.

But Digmine could be used for more than just mining Monero. Based on its design, hackers could eventually upgrade Digmine to completely hijack Facebook accounts. Since it is basically controlled by a remote “command” server, hackers could simply update the code to seize Facebook accounts accessed by infected PCs. Trend Micro provided its findings to Facebook, which immediately removed a large portion of the fake video links.

One sign of infection stems from the installation process. If you clicked on a Messenger video within Chrome, the browser will restart as the extension installs and loads. Moreover, browser-based cryptocurrency mining consumes large amounts of processing power, so your PC may feel sluggish, with your fans spinning at an unusually loud level.

In both cases, navigate to Chrome’s Customize and control button, and select More tools > Extensions in the drop-down menu. On the resulting page, trash every enabled extension that looks suspicious. Of course, the best way to avoid infection of any kind is to not click on files and links sent through Facebook Messenger. But given that friends you trust toss links back and forth every day, avoiding malware in that manner can be difficult.

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