Hackers have developed more sophisticated methods and techniques for installing malicious software on PCs to mine cryptocurrencies, as detailed by researchers at Kaspersky Lab.

The cybersecurity group said the most successful cybercriminals had earned millions of dollars exploiting PC vulnerabilities over just six months of 2017.

Lead malware analyst Anton Ivanov commented:

“Many cybercriminal groups have switched to malicious miner distribution, and the number of users that have encountered cryptocurrency miners has increased dramatically. We have found, that by the end of 2017, 2.7 million users had been attacked by malicious miners – this is almost 1.5 times higher than in 2016 (1.87 mln).”

He explained that the recent exponential growth of digital currencies had seen the previously popular ransomware give way to the crypto mining threat.

Mining software spread in September 2017

According to Kaspersky Lab, its team first noted a rise in miners in September 2017, when the software actively spread across the globe. The company describes miners as a class of malware that has continuously grown and extended its impact.

The researchers have also identified one cybercriminal group that uses advanced package tool (APT) techniques to infect PCs with miners. Cybercriminals are also known to have secretly infected certain web pages using special codes. Adware, pirated software, and cracked games are also used to infect users PCs, Kaspersky Lab added.

The company recommends that users avoid clicking on suspicious banners and ads or unknown websites to protect their PCs from infection. It is also best not to download or open unknown files from unverified sources and to install a reliable security solution.

For organizations, Kaspersky Lab recommends a regular security audit of their systems as well as installing reliable security software on all workstations, including servers, and ensure maximum protection for all components.

Army of Android mining devices

Last week, digital security company Avast warned at the Mobile World Congress 2018 that cybercriminals could create an army of millions to mine digital currency Monero by hacking into Android-based gadgets such as smartphones, smart TVs, and various IoT devices.

Also last month, Malwarebytes warned the public about a new strain of malware that is capable of redirecting Android devices to web pages and then use their processing power to mine cryptocurrencies.