Research: Illegal Cryptocurrency Mining May Have Reached Its Peak As Monero Prices Plunge
The burgeoning cryptocurrency sector gave rise to scores of unauthorized cryptocurrency mining malware infiltrating millions of computers worldwide. However, recent reports suggest the prominent hacking method may lose its relevance soon.
Cryptojacking Losing Sheen?
As reported by ZDNet on July 17, 2018, cybercriminals utilizing malicious software to mine cryptocurrencies are ironically facing the brunt of the energy-intensive activity as meager profits fail to justify their ill-intent.
For the uninitiated, the process of illegally gaining access to a victim’s computing resources for mining cryptocurrencies on the hacker’s behalf – popularly known as “crypto-jacking” – gained traction in 2018 after being classified as an easy method to earn money.
Hackers use unsuspicious looking emails or infiltrate gaming servers to infect smartphones, PCs, and even Amazon Firesticks, to secretly steal computing power.
The anonymity of blockchain technology adds on to the appeal of cryptojacking as criminals do not face risks of identification. Additionally, the process allows for maintaining a presence for a more extended period than other hacking methods, as most users do not notice a slower PC or noisier fan.
Reports suggest the illicit activity even superseded ransomware as a preference for hackers within a short period. The Q2 2018 Cybercrime Tactics and Techniques report by security researchers Malwarebytes indicates the fad may have begun its decline.
The report noted a stark decrease in the number of cryptojacking instances in recent months, with only 1.5 million detections of mining software in June 2018 compared to over 5 million in March 2018.
Business corporations were significantly affected by the mining plague as well, yet, only 30,000 security compromises were noted in June 2018 compared to 100,000 in January 2018.
However, hackers need to gain control over an extensive network of computers to make the efforts worthwhile, as cryptocurrency mining is an intensive activity requiring both patience and energy.
Jérôme Segura, a security researcher at Malwarebytes, stated:
“Simply compromising a few hundred sites with a web miner alone is not going to yield very much, since those hacked sites typically have low traffic.”
XMR Prices Affect Hackers’ Intent
The report notes the decline in the prices of Monero (XMR), seemingly most preferred by crypto-jackers for the ease-of-access the CoinHive miner software provides, as a noticeable contributor towards the decline. The privacy-centric cryptocurrency traded at over $470 in December 2017 and is valued at $146 at the time of writing.
Apart from the financial benefits, security firms have swiftly updated their software mechanism to prevent the installation of illegal mining programs on computers.
Segura noted that cryptojacking was a “ripe for abuse” method when it initially gained prominence, however, the technique is now shielded from misuse, which forces attackers to “rethink their strategies.”
Meanwhile, Malwarebytes expresses concerns over the resurgence of ransomware and other cyber-crimes after the decline in cryptojacking. The agency fears hackers may return to holding sensitive data hostage in return for a substantial payment – possibly demanded in cryptocurrency.
However, the report also stated that cryptojacking may lose popularity, but will not be completely mitigated. This is reasonably possible as public interest in cryptocurrencies remains strong and the sector is experiencing a rise in optimal regulations and technical developments.
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