Cryptojacking scams are on the rise once again, after declining for two years

Advertisement
Cryptojacking scams are on the rise once again, after declining for two years
Pixabay
  • Code changes to crypto mining malware grew by over four times in the first quarter of 2021, according to a report by security firm Kaspersky.
  • Mining malware accounted for 41% of all malware detected in 2020.
  • Cryptojacking scams used to be the rage in 2017-18 but became irrelevant over the past two years. With cryptocurrency gaining popularity, there has been a rise in cases this year.
Pushback from regulators isn’t the only unwanted attention that the cryptocurrency industry has drawn over the past six months. It seems that the half-a-year-long bull run also drew cybercriminals towards the industry, and revived a kind of malware that has been all but dead for about two years now.

Cryptojacking is a specific type of scam that allows attackers to install malware — often called miners — on users’ devices. These miners utilize your device’s resources in the background to mine cryptocurrency. They used to be popular during the 2017-18 period, but became mostly irrelevant over the past two years or so.

However, according to a report by security firm Kaspersky, cryptojacking cases have risen in the first quarter of 2021. The report shows that 432,171 users encountered miners on their devices in Q1, 2021. The number was pegged at 187,746 in January this year and 200,045 in March.

Advertisement
The number of unique modifications to miners also increased by over four times, from 3,815 to 16,934. Unique modifications are changes to a miner’s code in order to mine a new kind of currency or adapt to new systems. Researchers at Kaspersky saw 23,894 new modifications to miners in the first quarter of 2021.

Kaspersky isn’t the only one who noticed the rise either. According to Japanese tech services provider, NTT, crypto miners made up 41% of all detected malware in 2020, something that tech firms haven’t seen in a long time. Essentially, the boom in cryptocurrency prices drew more users to the industry, which led to more transactions and trading and hence increased the need for crypto mining.

What is crypto mining?

Advertisement

In the world of cryptocurrencies, mining is the process that authenticates all transactions and maintains the blockchain ledgers. Cryptocurrency transactions are dependent on mathematical equations that need to be solved, and the computer that solves an equation the fastest will get credit for authenticating a particular transaction. This credit comes in the form of new cryptocurrencies, which become a miner’s earnings.

In the past few years, most of the world’s crypto mining needs were handled by large mining farms. These are data center like operations that produce more computing power than a thousand mobile phones or computers. According to some estimates, over 70% of the world’s Bitcoin mining is done in China. The country is known to be big for Ethereum and other currencies as well.

The fact that mining farms could provide this much power meant that miner software became irrelevant in a way. An attacker would have to infect tens of thousands of computers to make any money from a miner malware. This, along with the fact that security and tech firms were actively tracking them, led miners to die out.

Advertisement
Why are cryptojacking scams dangerous?

At this point, you might be wondering why a miner scam is dangerous in the first place, right? After all, all they do is use some of your computer’s power right? No stealing data, no spying on you, and all those other things that people find scary?

Well, these scams can use up as much as 70% of your computer’s (or mobile phone’s) resources, slowing them down quite noticeably. This has been known to heat up devices unnaturally and even have them catch fire. While you will probably feel your phone or laptop heating up, cryptojacking malware can also affect IoT devices, which you usually wouldn’t monitor the same way.

Advertisement
Further, the backdoors hackers use in order to infect your computer, mobile phone, etc. can also be used to steal your data or spy on you.

How to detect and avoid cryptojacking

Unlike most malware, cryptojacking is virtually undetectable unless you’re looking for it. The only real sign of such an attack is that your device will slow down and tend to heat up. If you notice regular processes, like web browsing, etc. running slowly, you may have been affected by such malware.

The ways to detect and avoid such scams also happen to be the same as any other malware. You should avoid clicking on unknown links, from emails, text messages and more. Many attackers also create websites that claim to reward you with crypto for clicking a button, you should avoid them too. And an antivirus always helps to make sure known cryptojacking malware is detected before it can hurt you.
Advertisement


SEE ALSO:
Here’s why El Salvador’s President is endorsing Bitcoin as a legal tender
Here’s why fuel prices in India may not come down in a big way ⁠— at least not this year
{{}}