Heaven's Gate Miner Virus – How to Detect and Remove It

Heaven’s Gate Miner Virus – How to Detect and Remove It

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This blog post has been created to explain what is Heaven’s Gate Miner cryptocurrency miner and show how to remove it from your computer plus protect your PC against future infections as well.

The Heaven’s Gate miner is a new cryptocurrency miner malware that is the main payload of a recent hacker attacks. It contains many advanced stealth protection features and upon infection it would use the resources of the victim computers to generate income for the operators.

Threat Summary

NameHeaven's Gate
TypeCryptoCurrency Miner Malware
Short DescriptionAims to mine for different cryptocurrencies on the victim’s computer after which may begin to
SymptomsThe Heaven’s Gate Miner miner may begin to slow down your computer by using over 90% of both your CPU and GPU. This may result in your cooling fans to work at higher speeds.
Distribution MethodVia bundled installers, fake setups or via other PUP that has already been installed on your PC.
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Heaven’s Gate Miner Virus – Distribution Methods

The Heaven’s Gate Miner is distributed using large-scale attacks that are planned in advance by different hacker groups. At the moment the identity of the person or group behind the various campaigns is not known. The security analysts reveal that depending on the separate campaigns the exact configuration and behavior may differ.

A recent RIG exploit kit based attack campaign launched last week has been found to carry the Heaven’s Gate miner. Instead of ransomware however the latest campaign seem to include cryptocurrency miners as payloads such as the Heaven’s Gate malware. The analysts note that more and more of them are purposed to generate alternative crypto currencies to Bitcoin, the most popular being Monero.

The exploit kit uses the Ngay campaign to facilitate dangerous malvertising instances that lead to the Heaven’s Gate miner infections. They can be used in cases such as the following:

  • Hacker-controlled Sites — The criminals can utilize different web scripts such as redirects, banners, pop-ups and etc. that are inserted in various malware sites.
  • Email Messages — The criminals can utilize social engineering techniques in order to coerce the targets into opening the malware links. In some cases the files can also be attached directly to the messages masquerading as data of interest.

Criminals can also utilize browser hijackers to deliver the malware as part of their infection patterns. This type of computer viruses are counterfeit browser plugins that usually change important settings on the victims applications (default home page, search engine and new tabs page) in order to redirect the victims to hacker-controlled sites. They are also used to institute tracking cookies, Trojan viruses and cause dangerous system changes.

Malware software installers represent modified setup files taken from their official sources and changed to include payloads such as the Heaven’s Gate miner. They are often distributed using several methods at once.

Heaven’s Gate Miner Malware – Malicious Activity

At the start of infections the malicious process that is powered up by the main virus engine starts the behavior pattern is initiated. The analysts detected that the Notepad applications is started together with built-in parameters that runs the Heaven’s Gate miner code in parallel. An in-depth overview reveals that this is not the actual text software, but a customized xmring Monero mining instance. There are several reasons why the hacker operators would want to launch miner using this method:

  • Counterfeit Process Launch — The miner process is made to appear as one of the essential Microsoft Windows coponents. In many cases such techniques can fool users and system administrators that might be looking at their task manager. Such obfuscation techniques are fairy common among miners of late.
  • Minimum Time To Launch — This particular threat does not involve complex archives or packaging schemes that usually delay slightly the initial infections.
  • Customized Instance — Unlike simpler miner malware this particular one contains a distinctive launch mechanism which can make it harder to detect using generic signatures scans employed by anti-virus products in some cases.

The security investigation shows that the main malware process (dropper) appears to be 32-bit compatible. However it injects a 64-bit prcoess into the “notepad” instance. Officially this is not supported by the Windows API and the programmers behind the Heaven’s Gate miner have used workarounds in order to allow this to happen. The experts note that the hackers behind the threat are experienced criminals and it is likely that the virus can be modified further in future iterations.

During the code execution the hackers discovered that the samples include a stealth protection feature. It defends the malware files from virtual machines, sandboxes and debug environments. If such are found the malware may attempt to delete or disable them. If it is unable to do so then it can delete itself to avoid detection.

Cryptocurrency miners like the Heaven’s Gate malware aim to utilize the resources of the victim computers in order to generate income for the hacker operators. This particular strain is a Monero based software which is one of the most popular crypto currencies.

Malware miners such as this one have the ability to cause further damage to the victims machines including the following:

  • Trojan Virus Delivery — The hackers can institute Trojan malware that can spy on the users in real time. In can also take over control of the machines at any given time.
  • Additional Malware Delivery — The Heaven’s Gate miner virus can be used to institute other threats to the victim hosts.
  • System Changes — If configured so the main malware module can cause dangerous system changes to all aspects of the computers. This includes the Windows registry, configuration settings and services. As a result the users may experience performance issues or find that some system services or applications may fail to start. Boot and recovery options can also be affected.

The Heaven’s Gate miner is merely the latest payload used by the hackers. Usually such malware threats are customized and updated further in future attacks. We suspect that improved versions of it will follow.

Remove Heaven’s Gate Miner Virus and Protect Your PC

Q: How Do I Remove Heaven’s Gate Miner and How Do I Protect Myself In the Future?

A: In order to remove the Heaven’s Gate Miner miner, you should first stop the malicious processes of the malware by entering Windows Task Manager and stopping the malicious task by right-clicking on the Heaven’s Gate Miner process and clicking on End Process or End Process tree. This results in the virus stopping to mine. After doing so, you may want to remove the malware preferably by following the automatic or manual removal instructions below, if you have removed malware manually and have the experience. Be advised that security experts strongly recommend to remove the Heaven’s Gate Miner miner malware automatically by downloading an advanced anti-malware software, that aims to scan for and erase all malware from your system plus protect it against future infections as well.


Martin Beltov

Martin graduated with a degree in Publishing from Sofia University. As a cyber security enthusiast he enjoys writing about the latest threats and mechanisms of intrusion.

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