How 2018 has seen the rise of crypto malware

Our year review brings us to the stark rise in crypto malware and cryptojacking, which continues to evolve…

As when any market begins to rise to the mainstream and start to mature, the dark players who seek to exploit it also come to the fore. For the cryptocurrency community, then, crypto malware has become a more and more significant issue as 2018 has progressed.

Back in September we reported a then-massive 459% increase in crypto mining malware over the previous year, with a massive spike in ‘cryptojacking’ seen over a very short period.

As a reminder, cryptojacking is when malware is loaded onto a computer without consent from the user, and then used to mine cryptocurrency in the background. This uses a huge amount of power, which is theoretically why hackers are keen to pool resources from PCs they shouldn’t have access to, and the end user usually has no clue until it’s too late.

In December the figures are even more alarming, with McAfee Labs reporting that cryptocurrency malware has shot upwards by around 4,467 per cent, and that more devices beyond standard computers – such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices – are being targeted.

Firms have been fighting back, of course, with Monero launching a website in October that hoped to educate people on preventing cryptojacking and malware. This came after many incidents involving Monero specifically, in particular the malware KingMiner which popped up in June.

“The attacker employs various evasion techniques to bypass emulation and detection methods, and, as a result, several detection engines have noted significantly reduced detection rates,” researchers said. “Based on our analysis of sensor logs, there is a steady rise in the number of KingMiner attack attempts.”

Monero is particularly attractive to hackers because of its privacy and use of a Proof of Work (PoW) algorithm that makes it CPU and GPU friendly.

Cryptojacking has now surpassed ransomware as cybercriminals’ favourite method, according to research from Skybox Security, with crypto malware making up 32 percent of cyber attacks.

“If 2017 was the year of ransomware, 2018 looks likely to go down as the year of cryptominers,” the report read. “Cryptomining malware is often able to run undetected, making money for attackers all the while, and goes directly to the source (i.e. where and how the money is produced) to make a profit rather than extorting individual victims. Cybercriminals seem all too happy to leverage these benefits.

“Cryptocurrency miners may be the new kid on the block, but they’re taking over. With high-profit opportunity and a low chance of being discovered or stopped, this malware tool provides a money-making safe haven for cybercriminals.”

As crypto continues to be integrated into everyday life, it makes sense that crypto malware will follow suit. What 2019 holds remains to be seen, but reports that hackers have begun targeting individuals over exchanges may give us a hint.

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