Phorpiex botnet is back with a new Twizt: Hijacking Hundreds of crypto transactions

Check Point Research (CPR) spots a botnet variant that has stolen nearly half a million dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency through a technique called “crypto clipping”. The new variant, named Twizt and a descendant of Phorpiex, steals cryptocurrency during transactions by automatically substituting the intended wallet address with the threat actor’s wallet address. CPR warns cryptocurrency traders to beware of who they send funds to, as 969 transactions have been intercepted and counting. Twizt can operate without active C&C servers, enabling it to evade security mechanisms.

  • In 12 months, 3.64 Bitcoin, 55.87 Ether, and $55,000 in ERC20 tokens were taken
  • 26 ETH hijacked in one instance
  • Majority of victims reside in Ethiopia, Nigeria and India

Check Point Research (CPR) has spotted a new variant of Phorpiex, a botnet known for sextortion and crypto-jacking. The new variant, called Twizt, operates without active command and control servers, meaning each computer that it infects can widen the botnet. CPR estimates that Twizt has taken nearly half a million dollars’ worth of cyptocurrency. New features to Twizt has led CPR to believe that the botnet may become even more stable and, therefore, more dangerous.

 

How Twizt Works

Twizt leverages a technique called “crypto clipping”, which is the theft of cryptocurrency during transactions through the use of malware that automatically substitutes the intended wallet address with the threat actor’s wallet address. The result is that funds go into the wrong hands.

 

Victims

In a one-year period, between November 2020 to November 2021, Phorpiex bots hijacked 969 transactions, stealing 3.64 Bitcoin, 55.87 Ether, and $55,000 in ERC20 tokens. The value of the stolen assets in current prices is almost half a million US dollars. Several times, Phorpiex was able to hijack large amounts transactions. The largest amount for an intercepted Ethereum transaction was 26 ETH.

Figure 1. Victims by Country

 

There are three main risks involved with the new variant of Phorpiex. First, Twizt uses peer-to-peer model and is able to receive commands and updates from thousands of other infected machines. A peer-to-peer botnet is harder to take down and disrupt its operation. This makes Twizt more stable than previous versions of Phorpiex bots. Second, as well as old versions of Phorpiex, Twizt is able to steal crypto without any communication with C&C, therefore, it is easier to evade security mechanisms, such as firewalls in order to do damage. Third, Twizt supports more than 30 different cryptocurrency wallets from different blockchains, including major ones such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dash, Monero. This makes for a huge attack surface, and basically anyone who is utilizing crypto could be affected. I strongly urge all crypto currency users to double check the wallet addresses they copy and paste, as you could very well be inadvertently sending your crypto into the wrong hands.

 

Security Tips

  • Check wallet address. When users copy and paste a crypto wallet address, always double check that the original and pasted addresses match.
  • Test transactions. Before sending large amounts in crypto, first send a probe “test” transaction with minimal amount.
  • Stay updated. Keep operating system updated, do not download software from unverified sources.
  • Skip the ads. If you are looking for wallets or crypto trading and swapping platforms in the crypto space, always look at the first website in your search and not in the ad. These may mislead you as CPR has found scammers using Google Ads to steal crypto wallets.
  • Look at URLs. Always double-check the URLs!