Kaspersky Lab, a global cyber security firm recently published a report, disclosing that there is a growing spate of crypto-jacking as a result of cybercriminals moving away from the once common ransomware-related attacks to crypto-mining malware.


According to the report the rationale behind this shift can be situated in the profits therein. Crypto-jacking has over time proven to be a more lucrative option for hackers. Why bother unleashing ransomware attacks when such cybercriminals are fully abreast with the fact that they can make far much more crypto-jacking?


Only last year, news spread like wild fire when it came to light that cybercriminals had unleashed WannaCry, a ransomware that in time troubled several institutions across the globe. A good number of UK National Health Service hospitals across the length and breadth of England and Scotland were not spared.


How did this WannaCry operate? Very much like other ransomwares. Specified payments in bitcoins were demanded from facilities and institutions that were caught in its web. Such a demand could only be made because hackers had targeted a ‘Microsoft Windows exploit, encrypting all user files on a computer.’ In this instance, the victim is unable to access infected files until they are unlocked, and such files will only be unlocked upon the payment of the specified amount. Kaspersky Lab`s report identified this attack not as a trend but as an isolates case that was far reaching in its effects.


The report asserted that “the total number of users who encountered ransomware fell by almost 30%, from 2,581,026 in 2016-2017 to 1,811,937 in 2017-2018.” The report also noted that there has been a significant drop of about 22.5%, of ransomware attacks on mobile devices.


The spate of crypto-jacking cases

According to the report, far more internet users fell victim to the operations of malicious miners over the course of 2017, representing a 44.5% rise in such incidences. Attacks have not been limited to PCs. Despite the fact that PCs typically make available a lot more computational power that can be exploited for crypto-mining purposes, there appears to be a sharp increase in mobile-based mining attacks, possibly comparable to PC based attacks.


The report stated: “both percentages and absolute figures show us that mobile mining is an emerging threat, targeting developing countries.” The developing countries worst hit by mobile-based cryptojacking includes Myanmar, Nepal and Venezuela.


“The number of targeted attacks on businesses, for the purpose of installing miners, raises questions about whether mining might eventually follow in the footsteps of ransomware actors. Big money loves silence, and if miner actors attract as much attention to themselves as ransomware did, life will get complicated for them,” the report noted.


A similar study conducted by McAfee, an American cyber security firm collaborates that of Kaspersky Lab in many ways. McAfee`s report concluded that crypto-jacking malware was on the ascendancy, a claim Kaspersky Lab`s report made too. According to the McAfee report crypto-mining malware attacks had risen to over 600% in the first quarter of 2018 alone. “With the rise in the value of cryptocurrencies, market forces are driving criminals to crypto-jacking and the theft of cryptocurrency,” opined Steve Grobman, CTO of McAfee in a statement released to the Financial Times.

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