Cryptojacking has increased by more than 450% this year and shows no sign of slowing down, according to new research.
Cryptojacking is when a remote computer illicitly takes control of a device and harnesses the processor power to mine cryptocurrency.
The Cyber Threat Alliance (CTA) says detections of malware have increased by 459% in 2018.
The alliance comprises a host of leading internet security companies, such as Symantec, McAfee, Sophos and Cisco.
“Members are seeing an enormous increase in illicit mining activity targeting their customers. Activity has gone from a virtually non-exist issue to one that almost universally shows up at the top of our members’ threat lists,” said a report from the CTA.
Sign of problems
“For many, this may not seem like an important issue. What difference does it make if someone is stealing my computing power to mine cryptocurrencies?
“However, illicit mining is the “canary in the coal mine” of cybersecurity threats. If illicit cryptocurrency mining is taking place on your network, then you most likely have worse problems and we should consider the future of illicit mining as a strategic threat.”
Meanwhile, Europol, an umbrella agency representing Europe’s police forces, has also warned cryptojacking is an emerging threat.
In an organised crime assessment, Europol points out that crooks are developing technology to target victims and avoid law enforcement detection.
Europol cautions that cryptojacking is overtaking the threat posed by ransomware and will soon become the dominant cybercrime.
“Criminals increasingly abuse cryptocurrencies. While Bitcoin has lost its majority of the overall cryptocurrency market share, it remains the primary cryptocurrency encountered by law enforcement,” says the report.
“In a trend mirroring attacks on banks and their customers, cryptocurrency users and facilitators have become victim of cybercrimes themselves. Currency exchangers, mining services and other wallet holders are facing hacking attempts as well as extortion of personal data and theft.
“Cryptojacking is an emerging cybercrime trend. While it is not illegal in some cases, it nonetheless creates additional revenue streams and therefore motivation for attackers to hack legitimate websites to exploit their visitor systems. Actual cryptomining malware works to the same effect, but can cripple a victim’s system by monopolising their processing power.”