Ransomware is on the decline. The telltale notes that once demanded payment from victims in hope that they’d comply are rapidly disappearing from the cybercrime landscape. But that doesn’t mean the cyber world is a safer place.
Ransomware is quickly being replaced by a growing trend in which hackers hijack computers with cryptomining (or cryptojacking) malware that places a computer’s processing power under a hacker’s control. This enables the hacker to mine for, and cash in on, cryptocurrency, virtual monies that have seen tremendous growth in value over the last year.
The shifting cybercrime landscape
Researchers at Malwarebytes reported that in June last year, 7 out of every 10 malware payloads were ransomware. But by July, ransomware had begun its decline as other methods replaced it. That same month, ransomware comprised only 30% of cyber attacks. And by December, that number had fallen to less than 5%.
The decline of ransomware (and the growth of cryptojacking) stems from a number of developments. More victims are refusing to pay ransoms. Greater awareness of ransomware means greater focus on prevention. And ransomware requires more effort for a successful cyber heist.
What is cryptomining malware?
Cryptomining software uses victims’ computers against them to mine and harvest cryptocurrency—completely unbeknownst to them. How are hijackers infecting computer processing systems? By masquerading as legitimate software, which, once downloaded, unleashes the mining malware coded inside it. This enables it to pass undetected through typical antivirus solutions and makes it easier to slip through the cracks. With fewer people paying ransomware demands, cryptomining malware exploits an avenue independent of third-party compliance.
Cryptomining on the rise
Check Point revealed that cryptominers have already attacked 55% of organizations around the world. In the first quarter of 2018, cryptomining malware made some serious headway. From Python-based PyCryptoMiner botnets to cryptomining scripts in Google Play apps and cryptominer hacks on Tesla, cryptomining malware is flourishing. In February, more than 4,000 government websites across the U.K., U.S. and Australia were infected by cryptomining malware. Kaspersky Lab estimates that 2.7 million cryptojackings took place in the latter part of 2017, helping cybercriminals secure millions of dollars.
Why you should care
Ironically, cryptojackers are using completely legal mining software in unethical ways to covertly hack into computers. Unlike traditional malware and ransomware, which locks files in exchange for information or payments, cryptomining isn’t a problem on its own. Crypto enthusiasts around the globe use cryptomining software to find and obtain new crypto. But when unauthorized use and hackings occur, problems quickly arise. Not only does the practice intrude on personal property, but it can decrease your computer’s performance and battery life. The increased CPU usage may also result in a higher power bill.
Phil Quade, chief information security officer at Fortinet, said, “Cybercriminals aren't breaking into systems using new zero day attacks; they are primarily exploiting already discovered vulnerabilities."
How to avoid becoming a victim of cryptomining malware
Here are a few steps you can take to protect your computer against cryptojacking.
Install a coin-mining blocker
Install an extension such as No Coin or minerBLOCK. These could be effective at blocking unauthorized mining by blacklisting websites and scripts to keep your processing power where it belongs: in your hands.
Install anti-malware software
The inability of antiviruses to protect against cryptojacking is making anti-malware software crucial for protecting your computer’s CPU power. Not all anti-malware is created equal, though, so be sure that it’s made to block cryptojacking scripts.
Get comprehensive inspection and protection
Enlisting experts to help in the fight against cryptomining can be your best bet at keeping data and processing power secure against hacking attempts.
Is your computer protected against every trending cybercrime, past and present? Contact our team of experts today to see how you can take the next step in cybersecurity.