Tech 16 August 2018

Ed Drake

1 in 3 UK organizations hit by cryptojacking malware: report

As many as a third of organizations in the UK have been hit by cryptojacking malware, according to a survey released by software analysts at Citrix.

Cryptojacking, which sees hackers steal unused computer processing power to mine for cryptocurrencies, often goes undetected. Yet the proliferation of cryptojacking technologies in recent months has seen the problem reach near-epidemic levels in 2018.

In most cases, users might notice their computer running more slowly than usual, or that the fan in their device is working more frequently than might otherwise be the case. For criminals, the hack allows them to earn significant revenues running mining applications in the background, with little chance of detection.

A recent ZD.net report quoted a survey from Citrix, which showed that as many as 59% of organizations had detected cryptojacking malware within their networks, with 80% of those respondents detecting the problem within the last six months—roughly equivalent to the explosion in popularity of this type of scam.

Around 60% of those surveyed said the attacks had affected fewer than 50 devices, while around 10% saw the problem replicated over 100 machines or more. Network monitoring discovered malware in over a third of the cases, while one in three organizations said the malware was reported by their staff.

Despite the proliferation of these types of attacks, as many as 20% of businesses said they had no contingency plans in place for an attack, and no defenses against threats of this kind.

Mining malware has now replaced ransomware as the malware of choice for hackers, as a result of the ease with which the software can be pushed to infected machines, and the duration it can run without detection. Cryptojacking has also been put to legitimate use, with some high profile websites using the technology in place of ads or other revenue models. The Pirate Bay is perhaps the best known example, which controversially rolled out a cryptojacking revenue model over the last few months.

Some analysts have suggested that cryptojacking causes very little inconvenience for those affected, and this is in large part why attacks have proved successful. However, it remains important for businesses to build effective defenses against this kind of unauthorised use of their processing power.

Only 16% of respondents said they flagged cryptojacking after reports of slow devices, with the vast majority of those detecting malware doing so as a result of system monitoring technology. As an emerging front for scammers and hackers, those businesses that remain unprepared would be advised to take appropriate measures to prevent their own systems becoming compromised in the near future.

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