Interpol: Goldfish Alpha operation reduces cryptojacking by 78%

An operation coordinated by Interpol, dubbed Goldfish Alpha, dismantled an illegal cryptocurrency network operating in Southeast Asia

Interpol announced that it has coordinated a successful international operation aimed at removing cryptocurrency miners that infected routers located in Southeast Asia.

The operation sees the contribution of Trend Micro, law enforcement and CERTs from ASEAN countries, including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The operation was launched in June 2019, the experts first identified the compromised devices then alerted victims to install security patches that lock out the malicious code.

“An INTERPOL-coordinated operation in Southeast Asia against an emerging form of cybercrime known as cryptojacking has led to a massive reduction in the number of infected devices across the region.” reads the press release published by the Interpol.

“Based on data from police and partners in the cybersecurity industry, INTERPOL identified a global cryptojacking campaign facilitated by the exploitation of a vulnerability in MikroTik routers.”

In August 2018, researchers from Trend Micro and Qihoo 360 Netlab reported that hundreds of thousands of MikroTik routers around the world had been infected as part of a massive cryptojacking campaign.

The massive cryptojacking campaign was targeting  MikroTik routers, the hackers aimed at changing the configuration of the devices to inject a Coinhive cryptocurrency mining script in the users’ web traffic.

The campaign was first spotted by the researcher who goes online with the Twitter handle MalwareHunterBR in July 2018.

According to Trustwave researchers, the hackers were exploiting a zero-day flaw in the MikroTik routers to inject a copy of the Coinhive library in the traffic passing through the MikroTik router.

The vulnerability was discovered in April 2018 and patched by the vendor in just one day. Technical details ofthe MikroTik flaw were publicly disclosed in May, public proof-of-concept (PoC) codes for the issue were published on GitHub.

Trustwave experts pointed out that many users that weren’t using the MikroTik routers were affected too because Internet providers and big organizations leverage MikroTik routers compromised by hackers.

The experts noticed that the threat actors once discovered to have been spotted by the experts switched tactics and injected the Coinhive script only in error pages returned by the routers.

After the initial phase, the campaign was targeting devices outside Brazil, and it has been estimated that roughly 170,000 MikroTik routers were compromised to inject the Coinhive script. The campaign can potentially compromise over a million of MikroTik routers exposed on the Internet.

Back to the present, more than 20,000 of the compromised MikroTik routers were found in the ASEAN region. Interpol reported that the Goldfish Alpha allowed reducing by 78% the number of compromised devices.

“We’re proud to have contributed to yet another successful collaborative operation with INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) in Singapore that’s helped to reduce the number of users infected by cryptomining malware by 78%.” reported Trend Micro.

The hacked routers in the Asia region were accounting for 18 per cent of infections globally.

“When the operation concluded in late November, the number of infected devices had been reduced by 78 per cent. Efforts to remove the infections from the remaining devices continue.” concludes the Interpol.

Let me close by highlighting the importance of collaboration between the authorities and the private security firms in the fight against emerging cyber threats.

“When faced with emerging cybercrimes like cryptojacking, the importance of strong partnerships between police and the cybersecurity industry cannot be overstated,” said INTERPOL’s Director of Cybercrime, Craig Jones.

“By combining the expertise and data on cyberthreats held by the private sector with the investigative capabilities of law enforcement, we can best protect our communities from all forms of cybercrime,” concluded Mr Jones.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Operation Goldfish Alpha, cryptocurrency miners)

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