Research: Illicit Crypto Mining Becomes Rising Threat as Criminals Turn to Sophisticated Methods
Illicit cryptocurrency mining attacks are showing no signs of slowing down, with IT security firm Trend Micro reporting a 956 percent jump in such attacks since the start of 2017.
Crypto Prices Fall, Attacks Do Not
In a Mid-Year Security Roundup, Trend Micro researchers found over 787,000 instances of malicious cryptocurrency mining, popularly known as “cryptojacking,” in the first six months of 2018, compared to only 74,500 instances across a comparable period in 2017.
The test results included mining malware programs deployed by attackers across the internet as well as legitimate software, such as the Coinhive miner, being misused by hacking groups to target victims.
Additionally, over 47 “new” mining malware strains were discovered, indicating that several groups joined the attacking effort and developed unique malware in 2018.
The report also observed that cryptojacking is gaining fervor among hacking groups for its ease-of-deployment, anonymity and potential for large payouts.
Multiple Threats Identified
According to Trend Micro, cryptojacking is a significant phenomenon, and businesses need to be informed of the extent of the obscure threat. The report noted that attacks are not limited to a single computer and, instead, represent a red flag for an entire network’s security.
“The new challenge for enterprises lies in the fact that cryptocurrency miners are less visible, more silent threats, the non-detection of which is likely to induce a false sense of security.”
Apart from illegally utilizing computing resources, cryptojacking attacks can cause substantial damage to CPU fans and computing hardware, in addition to hurting network performance and shortening business computers’ lifespans. The report identified the loss of time while working on a slow, infected computer as an additional concern.
Trend Micro cited Coincheck’s infamous $500 million NEM hack as another method of cryptojacking where hackers target entire companies rather than individuals.
Furthermore, the report noted cryptojacking attacks were increasing regardless of the dwindling prices of cryptocurrencies in 2018.
Trend Micro’s research follows several self-funded efforts to point out security flaws in the digital asset ecosystem, with Kaspersky Labs and Qihoo 360, among others, devoting resources to help identify the factors, and steps to mitigate, 2018’s fastest-growing cybersecurity threat.