McAfee Study Shows Increased Prevalence of Crypto Mining Malware

By Daniel Zo McAfee, Crypto, Malware

Since the dawn of the internet, people throughout the world have been dealing with computer malware. With time, viruses have become more advanced, and the emergence of digital currencies brought along a new trend – crypto malware.

According to a research study carried out by McAfee, in the year of 2018, instances of mining malware have increased by approximately 4,000%. To put things better into perspective, in the third quarter of 2018, a total of four million mining malware threats have been discovered, which is a significantly higher number when compared to 2017 and 2016, when no more than 500,000 threats were discovered.

Crypto malware

So, why are cyber attackers suddenly turning towards crypto-related malware? Well, the answer is quite simple. They need money, and installing unauthorized crypto miners is a highly-lucrative business, since it allows attackers to generate large amounts of capital, with little to no effort. Those who are not familiar with this trend should note that crypto mining is the process via which digital currency transactions are verified and published onto the blockchain network. In return for the effort, crypto miners are given monetary rewards. The process is intensive on computer hardware, and can lead to significantly slower operating speeds, thus making it a nuisance.

The McAfee report also mentioned that the crypto ransomware trend has become less prevalent, since crypto mining is a more lucrative business. It seems like attackers are not only focusing on personal computers, but rather also on Internet-of-Things devices.

In a recent press statement, Ramco Verhoef, a security researcher at McAfee mentioned that: “We would not usually think of using routers or IoT devices such as IP cameras or videorecorders as crypto miners because their CPUs are not as powerful as those in desktop and laptop computers. However, due to the lack of proper security controls, cybercriminals can benefit from volume over CPU speed. If they can control thousands of devices that mine for a long time, they can still make money.”

At this time, gauging the overall monetary impact of crypto mining malware is a difficult endeavour. However, last summer, a report stating that $2 million in cryptocurrencies have been mined in China, via the infected devices. Businesses and computer networks are considered to be particularly vulnerable.

Protecting yourself from mining malware is fairly simple. Do not install software from sources you do not trust, do not open documents sent by people you do not know, and be careful which websites you visit. If you have noticed an abrupt slow-down of your computer device, it may have been infected with a mining malware.