A report by cybersecurity company McAfee reveals that cryptocurrency hijacking has risen exponentially, coinciding with the spike in market interest in digital currencies. The study explored the trends and rise of new ransomware, malware, and other threats in the last quarter of 2017.
The researchers noted a jump in hijacking incidents of Bitcoin and Monero wallets as the value of Bitcoin peaked above $19,000 in December. The report said:
“This shift reinforces the point that cybercriminals will always seek to combine the highest returns in the shortest time with the least risk. Security researchers have also recently discovered Android apps used for cryptocurrency mining.”
Raj Samani, chief scientist at McAfee, commented that the last three months of 2017 were marked by the rapid adoption of new schemes and tools in cybercriminal circles, examples including fileless malware, steganography, and cryptocurrency mining. He went on to say:
“Even tried-and-true tactics, such as ransomware campaigns, were leveraged beyond their usual means to create smoke and mirrors to distract defenders from actual attacks. Collaboration and liberalized information-sharing to improve attack defenses remain critically important as defenders work to combat escalating asymmetrical cyberwarfare.”
Actors targeting IoT for crypto mining
According to the study, cybercriminals are looking for ways to exploit the vulnerabilities of the Internet of Things (IoT) through botnets or borrow and develop new codes to mine cryptocurrencies.
“Cybercriminals would rather find outside computing power instead of using their own equipment because the price of a dedicated mining machine could exceed $5,000,” the researchers added.
Cybercriminals infect unsuspecting gadgets with malicious malware to either use the victim’s computing power to mine digital currencies or steal their cryptocurrency.
Army of crypto miners
McAfee’s research mirrors the report digital security firm Avast published last month, warning that cybercriminals could create an army of millions to mine Monero by exploiting the vulnerabilities of smartphones, smart TVs, and IoT devices.
Gagan Singh, Avast mobile business manager, said:
“Until recently, cybercriminals were focused on spreading malware to turn PCs into crypto-mining machines, but now we are also seeing an uptick in attacks targeting IoT devices and smartphones.”