In their latest Quarterly Threat Report, McAfee Labs suggests that the crypto craze isn’t going to end anytime soon. The consistent rise in crypto mining activities during the second quarter of 2018 shows that falling crypto prices do not deter the miners who continue to reap profits. Hackers are equally enthusiastic about digital coins as their activity increased during the quarter too. The report gives plenty of reasons for individuals and organizations to worry.
Cryptojacking Increased in Q2
During the second quarter of 2018, cryptojacking incidents witnessed an 86-percent rise. In 2017, cryptocurrency ransomware became the talk of the town as the WannaCry malware hit several thousand computers around the globe and asked for crypto ransoms to be paid by administrators. Crypto mining malware is now gaining ground, making several organizations and individuals pay hefty power bills and slowing down their systems.
The growth in cryptojacking samples during the second quarter of 2018 was lower than the first quarter of 2018. However, we must note that the start of Q1 2018 saw a rapid rise in crypto prices, leading to a massive growth in valuation. In the last quarter of 2017, when the prices were still peaking, about 400,000 instances of crypto mining malware were found, which grew to a staggering 2.9 million samples in the first quarter.
Since then, the market has remained bearish. Therefore, an 86-percent increase in cryptojacking is still huge.
Who Are Becoming the Victims?
McAfee Labs suggests that cryptojacking targets do not have to be a broad group of victims. Some hackers are also targeting specific groups of users. For instance, a crypto mining malware strain is targeting gamers who frequent a Russian forum. The strain poses as a “mod” and claims to enhance popular games. By looking more authentic to the forum users, the strain gets gamers to download malicious software, which uses their computing resources to mine cryptocurrencies.
The primary target of crypto mining malware is personal computers, but there are instances of Android phones in China and Korea being exploited by ADB.Miner malware. The senior principal engineer and lead scientist with McAfee Advanced Threat Research, Christiaan Beek, commented on the state of the market, saying:
“A few years ago, we wouldn’t think of internet routers, video-recording devices, and other Internet of Things devices as platforms for crypto mining because their CPU speeds were too insufficient to support such productivity.”
He said that a large volume of these devices now stay online consistently and may have weak passwords, which could further encourage cryptojacking acts. He explained:
“If I were a cybercriminal who owns a botnet of 100,000 such IoT devices, it would cost me next to nothing financially to produce enough cryptocurrency to create a new, profitable revenue stream.”