Lemon Duck, a crypto mining botnet, is spreading through Windows 10 computers by infecting users through fake COVID-19 e-mails, as researchers have identified this since the end of August.
It has been reported that the botnet has been around since December 2018.
However, a big jump in activity over the past six weeks suggests that the malware has infiltrated many more machines in order to harness their resources to mine the cryptocurrency Monero.
Cisco’s Talos Intelligence Group researched that Lemon Duck infections are unlikely to have been detected by end-users, however, power defenders such as network administrators are likely to have picked it up.
The report said that crypto mining malware can cause physical damage to hardware since it leaches resources by running the CPU or GPU constantly in order to carry out the mining process. This will cause an increase in power consumption and heat generation which, in severe cases, could lead to a fire.
Likewise, Windows 10 computers are targeted by the malware which exploits vulnerabilities in a number of Microsoft system services.
It has been analyzed that the malware has been spread through e-mail with a COVID-19 related subject and an infected file attached. Once the system has been infected, it uses Outlook to automatically send itself to every contact in the affected user’s contacts list.
The fake e-mails contain two malicious files. The first is an RTF document with the name readme.doc, which exploits remote code execution vulnerability in Microsoft Office. And the second file is called readme.zip, which contains a script that downloads and runs the Lemon Duck loader. Once installed, the sophisticated software terminates a number of Windows services and downloads other tools for stealth connections to the rest of the network.
Lemon Duck has also been known to infect Linux systems but Windows machines are the primary victims.
The malware mines Monero since it is anonymous by design and very easy to unclear.
Thus, the researchers did not explain as to who was behind Lemon Duck though it has been linked to other crypto mining malware called “Beapy” that targeted East Asia in June 2019.