Cyber criminals increasingly target cryptocurrency, research finds

Cyber criminals increasingly target cryptocurrency, research finds
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Cyber criminals are ratcheting up efforts to target devices with cryptocurrency malware, according to a new report.

Cybersecurity firm McAfee found that the use of cryptocurrency mining malware increased by 86 percent during the second quarter of 2018. The increase continues a trend that has already escalated over the past few months.

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Christiaan Beek, the lead scientist and senior principal engineer with McAfee Advanced Threat Research, said that in the past few years devices like internet routers have emerged as possible targets for cryptomining.

Bitcoin has a $232 billion market, and approximately $1.5 billion worth of cryptocurrency has been stolen in the past two years, according to McAfee.

“Today, the tremendous volume of such devices online and their propensity for weak passwords present a very attractive platform for this activity,” Beek said in a statement. “If I were a cybercriminal who owns a botnet of 100,000 such [internet of things] IoT devices, it would cost me next to nothing financially to produce enough cryptocurrency to create a new, profitable revenue stream.”

The report also found that incidences of malware targeting software vulnerabilities that could have already been patched also increased by 151 percent during the second quarter, a trend Beek labeled as alarming.

“It’s still surprising to see numerous vulnerabilities from as far back as 2014 used successfully to spearhead attacks, even when there have been patches available for months and years to deflect exploits,” he said in a release. “This is a discouraging testament to the fact that users and organizations still must do a better job of patching vulnerabilities when fixes become available.”