Cryptomining surpasses ransomware as leading online threat: report
Monero has overtaken bitcoin as the most popular illicit digital currency to mine.
Over the first quarter of 2018, digital currency mining malware eclipsed ransomware attacks, according to the latest research report. Plus, new developments in malware are happening first in the cryptomining sector.
Comodo Threat Research Labs’ latest report reveals that cryptomining cybercriminals “followed the money and sought to cash in on the whopping increase in cryptocurrencies’ valuation” that began in December 2017.
How does it work?
Attackers break into websites to covertly install cryptominers – malware that uses resources of the visitors’ computers to mine cryptocurrencies for the benefit of the perpetrators, according to Comodo’s report.
Many world-known and respectable companies’ websites were compromised during these attacks in Q1 2018. The report also reveals that Monero has overtaken bitcoin as the most popular illicit virtual currency to mine.
Ransomware vs. cryptomining
In previous quarters, ransomware attacks led the malware market and while they were still a significant threat in Q1 2018, there has been a sudden decrease in the number of overall detections, down from 42% of all malware cases in August 2017 to just 9% of cases in February this year, yielding to cryptomining offenses.
Comodo detected 28.9 million cryptomining incidents out of a total of 300 million throughout Q1 2018. This amounts to around 10% of all incidents. The number of unique cryptominer variants grew from 93,750 in January to 127,000 in March, up 35% over the quarter. Concurrently, the data revealed that new variants of ransomware activity fell from 124,320 in January to 71,540 in March, slipping 42% over the same period.
Cryptominers primary target during 2016 and most of 2017 was bitcoin. However, following the price explosion and increased market value of alternative cryptocurrencies, attackers began seeking other coins. Additionally, the report found that bitcoin mining has become more resource-intensive, transactions are open to the public and can be tracked easily, plus suspicious bitcoin wallets can be blacklisted and permanently blocked.
Monero is now the most sought-after cryptocurrency. It favors cybercriminals in that it cannot be tracked, parties and transaction amounts are hidden, new blockchain blocks are created every two minutes, providing more frequent opportunities for attack, and its tokens are designed to be mined using ordinary computers.
The most popular mining malware includes Coinhive, Crypto-Loot, Archive Poster, GhostMiner and CoinMiner.
“We believe that increase in miner malware will continue in the next quarter. Also, attackers will go on switching to malware for cryptocurrencies other than bitcoin,” Comodo Threat Research Labs warned readers.
A recent study revealed that approximately 1 in every 7,000 websites are running some sort of cryptocurrency mining script that underhandedly saps your computer’s processing power in order to dig for digital coins.
The rapid advancement of illegal cryptocurrency coin mining was considered a leading trend in the internet security landscape last year, according to the latest cyber surveillance insights report released this month. The Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR) Volume 23: Insights into the Cyber Security Threat Landscape found that in just four months, detections of coinminers on endpoint computers increased by 8,500% in 2017.
Last month, cybersecurity provider Kaspersky Lab reported that researchers had uncovered malware attacks being executed on cloud-based instant messaging service Telegram, for the purpose of illicit cryptocurrency mining. It was also reported that American electric energy car manufacturer Tesla fell victim to “cryptojacking”.
In March, lighting company Elite Fixtures conducted a study of global bitcoin mining costs to determine the cheapest countries in which to mine the elusive cryptocurrency. Venezuela was found to be the cheapest.
Earlier this year, Samsung Electronics entered into a contract to manufacture specific-use cryptocurrency mining hardware in order to supply a Chinese company, growing competition in a monopolized market.
In January, Virginia Beach pledged $500,000 to help install a bitcoin mine, expected to generate local jobs.
You can learn all about different exchanges, understand exactly how to buy and sell cryptocurrencies, calculate your taxes, discover digital wallets to hold assets and explore a list of all the alternative coins on the market.
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