Microsoft has announced that malicious cryptocurrency miners are now an increasing threat according to the latest research. It said that the booming price of bitcoin during 2017 has caused criminals to turn their attention to cryptocurrencies and employ malicious coin miners in order to use other people’s and businesses’ computing resources to mint new coins.
The firm used its Windows Defender software to collect telemetry about the number of computers affected by “trojanized cryptocurrency miners” averaged around 644,000 unique computers every month between September 2017 and January 2018. The increase in malicious miners seems to have come at the expense of cryptocurrency ransomware according to Microsoft, it said:
“Interestingly, the proliferation of malicious cryptocurrency miners coincides with a decrease in the volume of ransomware. Are these two trends related? Are cybercriminals shifting their focus to cryptocurrency miners as a primary source of income? It’s not likely that cybercriminals will completely abandon ransomware operations any time soon, but the increase in trojanized cryptocurrency miners indicates that attackers are definitely exploring the possibilities of this newer method of illicitly earning money.”
Since September, Microsoft also noticed a large increase in enterprise computers being used to do crypto mining. Although the applications weren’t malicious, they were unauthorised; for example, an employee could have been using the vast computing power to make a quick buck. Microsoft points out that by enabling potentially unwanted application (PUA) protection, companies can avert unauthorised mining. Of all the PUAs encountered in January this year, coin miners made up for 6% of the total.
On the back of the research, Microsoft said that people and businesses can mitigate attacks from malicious websites that host coin miners by using Microsoft Edge, Windows Defender SmartScreen, and Windows Defender AV.