HACKERS are dressing up dangerous software as free games in a bid to infect people's computers, anti-virus experts at Avast have warned.
Top titles like Grand Theft Auto V are among those favoured by cyber crooks looking to make a quick bit of cash off of unsuspecting victims.
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The malware called "Crackonosh" has been found in 220,000 computers, Avast, which is based in the Czech Republic, wrote in a recent blog post.
It's spread to PCs through hacked versions of popular games given away on forums and other sketchy sites.
They include NBA 2K19, Far Cry 5, and Pro Evolution Soccer 2018.
Once a user has clicked download, their computer is infected with special software that hijacks your computer.
That software quietly mines cryptocurrencies in the background, slowing down the user's PC while leaving them unaware they've been hacked.
Avast estimates that crooks have earned $2million using the malware to fill their pockets with cryptocurrency, which they can then trade for cash.
It's believed that the hackers hail from the Czech Republic. Crackonosh means "mountain spirit" in Czech folklore.
"Crackonosh installs itself by replacing critical Windows system files and abusing the Windows Safe mode to impair system defenses," Avast wrote on June 24.
"This malware further protects itself by disabling security software, operating system updates and employs other anti-analysis techniques to prevent discovery, making it very difficult to detect and remove."
According to Avast, victims of the scam may only notice a problem when their computer starts running slower than usual.
That's a result of the cryptomining software taking up processing power and reducing the PC's performance.
Those with a malware-ridden device may also spot that components wear out quickly, and electricity bills skyrocket.
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Avast said the rise of the attack, which has been circulating since 2018, shows the potential dangers of downloading modified or "cracked" software.
"Crackonosh shows the risks in downloading cracked software and demonstrates that it is highly profitable for attackers," Avast said.
"As long as people continue to download cracked software, attacks like these will continue to be profitable for attackers.
"The key take-away from this is that you really can’t get something for nothing and when you try to steal software, odds are someone is trying to steal from you."
Because Crackonosh is designed to dodge anti-virus software, if your PC is infected, it's extremely difficult to remove.
Taking your device to your local PC store is likely the best and safest way to get your computer cleaned up and virus free.
Alternatively, you can try and eliminate the malware yourself. Avast has a guide for doing so on its website, here.
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