Cryptohackers Breach StatCounter to Steal Bitcoins

Cryptohackers planted malware on StatCounter to steal bitcoin revenue from Gate.io account holders, according to Eset researcher Matthieu Faou, who discovered the breach.

The malicious code was added to StatCounter’s site-tracking script last weekend, he reported Tuesday.

The malicious code hijacks any bitcoin transactions made through the Web interface of the Gate.io cryptocurrency exchange. It does not trigger unless the page link contains the “myaccount/withdraw/BTC” path.

Limited Target, Broad Potential

The Cryptohackers also is significant because it shows increased sophistication among hackers regarding the tools and methods they use to steal cryptocurrency, noted George Waller, CEO of BlockSafe Technologies.

Telling Financial Impact

Gate.io customers who initiated bitcoin transactions during the time of the Cryptohackers attack are most at risk from this breach. The malware hijacked transactions legitimately authorized by the site user by changing the destination address of the bitcoin transfers, according to Paige Boshell, managing member of Privacy Counsel.

As a rule, the number of third-party scripts, such as StatCounter, should be kept to a minimum by webmasters, as each represents a potential attack vector. For exchanges, additional confirmations for withdrawals would have been beneficial in this case, given that the exploit involved swapping the user’s bitcoin address for that of the thieves.

“Gate.io has taken down StatCounter, so this particular attack should be concluded, Boshell told TechNewsWorld.

Protection Strategies Not Foolproof Against the Cryptohackers

StatCounter needs to improve its own code audit and constantly check that only authorized code is running on its network, suggested Joshua Marpet, COO at Red Lion. However, most users will not realize that StatCounter is at fault.

“They’ll blame Gate.io, and anything could happen — loss of business, run on the bank,’ and even closing their doors,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Checking the code is not always a workable prevention plan. In this case, the malware code looked like the Gate.io user’s own instructions, noted Privacy Counsel’s Boshell.

“It was not easily detectable by the fraud tools that Gate.io uses to protect against and detect malware,” she said.

More Best Practices

Traffic analysis, website scanning and code auditing are some of the tools that could have detected that something was causing abnormal transactions and traffic, noted Fausto Oliveira, principal security architect at Acceptto. However, it would have been ideal to prevent the attack in the first place.

Beware Third-Party Anythings

As a rule, the number of third-party scripts should be kept to a minimum by webmasters, suggested Zenchain cofounder Seth Hornby, as each one represents a potential attack vector.

“For exchanges, additional confirmations for withdrawals would also be beneficial in this case, given that the exploit involved swapping the user’s bitcoin address for that of the thieves,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Even third-party outsourcing solutions can open the door to cyber shenanigans, warned Zhang Jian, founder of FCoin.

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