Foraging for the Cybercurrency Four Leaf Clover

Cyber Security Posted Mar 16, 2018 by Gabrielle Kondracki

St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, and we’ve all recently been caught looking out of our windows in hopes that a rainbow will lead us to the pot of gold. We’re not the only ones.

In the cyberworld, it seems there has been a virtual rainbow sending cybercriminals from all over the world racing to find their own pots of gold—cryptocurrency.

Their tools for getting there? Crypto-mining. 

Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies used as a medium of exchange. They’re not controlled by any government. Instead, they’re secured by restricted entries in a database, shared by a peer-to-peer network.

As described by Will Gragido, Director of Advanced Threat Protection at Digital Guardian, cryptocurrencies can be beneficial for anyone and everyone.  That includes criminals, because:

  • They’re distributed from a database perspective.
  • They utilize peer-to-peer communications, so there is never a single point of failure.
  • They offer transparency and pseudo anonymity.
  • Transactions are irreversible, so they cannot be deleted once recorded

So, why has crypto-mining become so popular among criminals?

A recent blog written by business risk intelligence firm, Flashpoint, suggests that it came from the decentralized nature and the anonymity that it affords those profit-minded criminals. For example, when referencing Monero, a bitcoin-like digital currency, Flashpoint explains that “it is marketed as cryptographically secure currency; its advanced obfuscation algorithms hide the origin and destination of transactions, as well as amounts. It is approaching Bitcoin as the currency of choice for criminals purchasing illicit goods and services on the Deep and Dark Web (DDW), including malware, stolen personal information, drugs and weapons.”

With cryptocurrency mining infiltrating the computers and databases of organizations and businesses worldwide, it’s the new big threat to look out for.

According to Jai Vijayan of Dark Reading, the process of mining involves hijacking computers and using company resources – allowing criminals to install miners for the big-name cryptocurrencies (like Monero) on to host systems and adding them to crypto-mining botnets. Because these mining tools are being installed unknowingly on victims’ servers, organizations of all types are reporting major operational disruptions.

Businesses and organizations aren’t the only people suffering, though. The craze behind crypto-mining has become so popular that criminals themselves have attempted to interfere with each other’s hacks. Security teams have found the first-ever coin miner who has created a “kill list”, which intercepts other attempted hacks, hogging the infected computer’s malware in order to receive 100 percent of the benefits.

The future of cryptocurrencies seems as unpredictable as the constant price shifts and value fluctuations. One thing appears more certain: As more people buy more cryptocurrencies, more hackers will try to steal from them. To close on a St. Patrick’s Day vibe, this is a battle that’s sure to see escalating warfare – with the Good Guys and the Bad Guys equally committed to getting the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!