Illegal mining of virtual currencies using users' computers became the preferred form of attack by cybercriminals in 2018. The activity even surpassed ransomware, a type of scam that hijacks the PC and calls for ransom. The survey by Skybox Security, a company specializing in digital security.
READ: Bitcoin mining consumes more electricity than 159 countries
The research indicates that exploitation of cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, using users' computers and devices reaches 32% of the total volume of attacks and illegal actions on the Internet. The new "fashion" leaves ransomware well behind, with 8% of occurrences over the first six months of the year. Factors such as profitability and anonymity explain the change.
Criminals start to prefer illegal mining of virtual currencies to ransomware Photo: Divulgao
Cryptocurrency-related attacks involve tools that are capable of secretly installing themselves on victims' computers or cell phones. These tools exploit the processing capabilities of devices to mine digital currencies without the user's consent. Over time, the profit is transferred to criminals' wallets in an absolutely anonymous process and is impossible to track.
The result of the survey is interesting compared to the numbers of the previous survey, published in December 2017, which considered records of attacks carried out in the last six months of last year. At that time, the research had indicated that illegal actions of exploiting cryptocurrencies from remote attacks accounted for 7% of the occurrences, leaving ransomware in the absolute preference of criminals, with 32%.
The two stocks practically switched positions in favor of hackers and the factors, according to the researchers, are related to profitability and risks. While the generation of virtual currencies is safer from the criminal's point of view, ransomware is no guarantee of profit, since the victim may simply refuse to pay the ransom.
Another factor that contributes to the change in preference is the appreciation of cryptocurrencies over the months. To have a notion of the volume of money, every 10 minutes, a bitcoin miner remunerated at 12.5 bitcoins per block of transactions carried out – equivalent to US $ 94,500 (R $ 355 thousand for the quotation of the day).
On the other hand, ransomware involves a more sophisticated approach, since malware needs to be disseminated on a broad enough basis to increase the prospect of profits – as was the case with WannaCry in 2017. In addition, criminals need to develop approaches that hide their fingerprints and make the work of researchers difficult when it comes to discovering those responsible.
There are ways to prevent criminals from using the computer to mine virtual currencies. In addition to the usual care with what is installed and used on the devices, there are ways to block the exploitation methods that can be implemented by Internet sites.
What ransomware: five tips to protect yourself from scam