An Avast report claims that almost 50,000 computers have been infected by malware in the past 30 days via infected Minecraft skins. The malware is said to package itself as an unsuspecting PNG file, ready for fans of the game to download from the official Minecraft domain. It’s not to be trifled with either, as the malware can cause serious damage to your PC, wiping your hard drive and destroying backups.
Don’t panic, though; here, we explain what the Minecraft malware is, how to avoid it and what to do if you’ve got the Minecraft virus.
What is the Minecraft Virus?
According to Avast data from the past 30 days, there have been nearly 50,000 Minecraft accounts infected with malware that could potentially reformat hard-drives and delete both backup data and system programs.
The Powershell script identified by Avast experts is apparently smuggled onto unsuspecting gamers’ computers via Minecraft skins. The script is created in the same PNG file format used for Minecraft skins, making it hard to identify potentially malicious Minecraft skins on the surface.
Avast has admitted that the malicious code is largely unimpressive, and can be found on sites that provide instructions on creating viruses with Windows Notepad. The simplicity suggests that it’s not backed by professional cybercriminals, though the skins are hosted on the official Minecraft domain.
A Microsoft spokesperson has since said that the company "has addressed this issue and put additional measures in place to protect our community" and that players should "report any suspicious activity to feedback.minecraft.net."
How can I avoid the Minecraft Virus?
The key thing right now is avoiding the HDD-reformatting malware – the good news is that it shouldn’t be too hard to steer clear. The easiest way to avoid the malware is to simply not download any skins from the official Minecraft domain while Mojang fixes the issue and removes any infected files.
If you simply can’t wait, you could try and avoid any of the skins that Avast claim feature malware. A screenshot of the skins is provided below – just avoid those skins, and any that look like them for now.
If you don't want to risk it, then why not try one of our favourite Minecraft alternatives?
What should I do if I’ve downloaded malware from Minecraft?
If you’ve found unusual messages in your Minecraft inbox along the lines of “You have maxed your internet usage for a lifetime”, are experiencing performance issues or receiving error messages related to disk formatting, chances are you’ve downloaded a malicious Minecraft skin.
Don’t panic; Avast recommends scanning your machine with free (or paid) antivirus software like Bitdefender Total Security or Avast Free Antivirus. The company claims that most should be able to identify the malicious file and remove it for you, although some users may need to go through a few extra steps. Some users claim that the malware ‘breaks’ Minecraft for them; if this is the case for you, you need only reinstall the game from the Microsoft Store.
Now, if your computer has become completely infected and system files have already been deleted, you may need to completely reset your PC.