Cryptojacking Peaked In Q4 2017 With Bitcoin Price Boom

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The practice of cryptocurrency mining by hijacking computers, known as cryptojacking, reached greater heights in the final months of 2017, according to a new report on the cyber security threat landscape of the previous year.

Symantec said it has detected 8,500 percent increase in cyber criminals trying to make money by hacking computers through coinminers in the last quarter of 2017, a period that witnessed steep rise in the value of cryptocurrencies.

The cybersecurity service provider says 16 percent of online attacks it blocked in the last three months of 2017 belonged to this category.

Cryptojacking cases were at its peak, making up 24 percent of all online attacks, in December, when Bitcon reached its record high price of over $19,500.

A coinminer is a file or script that is used to mine cryptocurrencies. Easy-to-operate coin mining apps with a low barrier to entry, only requiring a couple of lines of code to operate, make cyber criminals' job easy.

Cyber criminals use coinminers to steal victims' computer processing power and cloud CPU usage to mine cryptocurrencies. It allows criminals to fly under the radar in a way that is not possible with other types of cyber crime.

The report warns that coin mining on a device could potentially cause batteries to overheat and damage them. Self-propagating coinminers may require corporate networks to be shut down. Coin mining in the cloud also has financial implications for organizations that are being billed based on CPU usage.

While malicious coinminers appear to target mainly computers and mobile phones, Symantec fears that cyber criminals may increasingly target IoT devices. "We observed a 600 percent increase in overall attacks on IoT devices in 2017, showing that they are still very much a target for cyber criminals."

The report says that mining other people's CPUs is far easier than installing a virus into target computers.

Last year, Showtime's website secretly mined user CPU for Monero, which has a more mining-friendly hashing algorithm than bitcoin. More recently, Apple removed the Calendar 2 app in the Mac App Store that mined Monero for putting strain on users' computers.

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