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Cryptojacking and RansomWare Attacks on the Rise in Q1 2019

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August 30, 2019 | 

Darryn Pollock |  0 Comments| 

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The cryptocurrency space remains a place with a ‘Wild West’ tagline when it comes to scams, hacks, and especially cyber crime involving or surrounding cryptocurrency. Although the market continues to mature and be legitimized by further adoption of enterprises and the usage of blockchain, it turns out that cyber crime is still growing. 

Cybersecurity company McAfee Labs has released its 2019 threat report, which notes an increase in cryptojacking campaigns and ransomware attacks in Q1 2019. Cryptojacking, which is a relatively new phenomenon, sees malware infiltrate users machines to be put to work secretly mining cryptocurrency to be sent to the malicious attacker - this is up 30 percent according to the report.

More concerning is probably ransomware, which sees malware being used to target big institutions to take important data and information only to ransom it back to the companies, usually for a fee in Bitcoin. This type of attack is up a staggering 118 percent. 

Additionally, the company discovered new malware families for both Microsoft Windows and Apple users.

New threats all the time

The issue is that even as the cryptocurrency market matures and becomes more legitimized, it is still a decentralised force and those bad actors involved in it have the same opportunities to mature their own malicious software. 

This leads to ever changing types of malicious attacks and new and unforeseen ransomware and crypto jacking platforms. 

For instance, One crypto jacking campaign they discovered was PsMiner — a crypto jacker for mining Monero (XMR) on Windows machines. McAfee Labs reportedly found that PsMiner used a PowerShell command to deploy its payload, which they further found is the crypto jacking norm for targeting Windows computers.

Additionally, the cybersecurity company also described a malware family that targets Apple users called CookieMiner. This malware strain is reportedly designed to mine the cryptocurrency Koto, a zero-knowledge proof crypto from Japan. 

The cryptojacker also steals user information from user website, which the company has seen steals data from major crypto services such as Binance, Bitstamp, Bittrex, Coinbase, MyEtherWallet and Poloniex, per the report.

Powerful Ransomware

Although not directly related to cryptocurrency, Ransomware is a big concern to, seeing as it has more than doubled in popularity. Ransomware only uses cryptocurrency as a payment option for a malicious attack, but it has been seen to be so powerful that it even halted newspaper printing in the US in the first quarter of 2019.

“Early in Q1, an outbreak of Ryuk ransomware impeded newspaper printing services in the United States. McAfee investigated the incident and studied its inner workings, including technical indicators, cybercriminal traits, and evidence discovered on the dark web,” the McAfee report stated.

 “McAfee hypothesized that the Ryuk attacks may not necessarily be backed by a nation-state, but rather share the characteristics of a cybercrime operation. McAfee published an article describing how the hasty attribution of Ryuk ransomware to North Korea was missing the point. Since then, collective industry peers discovered additional technical details of Ryuk.”

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