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Mac Bitcoin-stealing malware spreads via cracked versions of Angry Birds and other apps

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Researchers have discovered a Bitcoin-stealing malware called OSX/CoinThief being spread via cracked apps such as Angry Birds, according to an announcement by security company ESET.

The OSX/CoinThief trojan, first discovered by SecureMac researchers, is being spread via P2P file-sharing networks as cracked versions of OS X text editor BBEdit, graphics editor Pixelmator, media cataloguing app Delicious Library and Angry Birds. The trojan infects Mac OS X machines and steals login credentials related to Bitcoin exchanges and wallet sites through the installation of malicious browser add-ons.

Michael McKinnon, a security advisor at AVG told Polygon that the connection of gaming and Bitcoin users is not a coincidence because the demographic of cultures run parallel to each other. According to McKinnon, these generations understand and have leveraged crypto-currencies much more effectively.

"Therefore, gamers are much more likely to have Bitcoin wallets that can be targeted," he said. "For the rest of the general public, the prevalence of Bitcoin wallets is still rare at best. The sudden spike in the valuation of Bitcoin late last year has provided a lot of motivation for criminals to take advantage of stealing Bitcoin wallets, and in some cases even ‘mining' Bitcoin using the computing power of infected computers."

"I wouldn't expect to see much future in Bitcoin mining malware as the built-in complexity that governs the mining rate of Bitcoin (i.e. the amount of computer power required to do it successfully) is getting so high now that it is impractical to perform even on a large scale of infected computers," McKinnon said.

McKinnon added Bitcoin mining is now performed using dedicated "Application Specific Integrated Circuits" (ASIC) and that the future may see remote hijacking attempts of users running this equipment instead.

ESET Live Grid statistics show the threat is mostly active amongst U.S.-based Mac machines and spread via download sites such as Download.com and MacUpdate.com. The trojan also affects versions of Bitcoin Ticker TTM (To The Moon), BitVanity, StealthBit and Litecoin Ticker.

Both security vendors advise Mac OSX users to run up-to-date antivirus products on their systems to detect known malicious applications and avoid installing pirated software.

"The issue of installing any software that is downloaded, game crack or otherwise, whether that be on a PC, Mac or Mobile device is that unless you can emphatically trust the source (i.e. an official app store or known vendor website) it is impossible to know for sure if the software can be trusted," McKinon said. "The reality here is that many users continue to infect themselves simply by installing and trusting software that they shouldn't."

The Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox filed for bankruptcy protection today, according The Wall Street Journal. In February, the exchange suspended Bitcoin withdrawals because it claimed a transaction bug could have led to theft. It went offline on Monday following reports that 744,000 bitcoins were stolen.