The price of cryptocurrencies might be surprisingly low these days, but cybercriminals don’t seem to be giving up on the novel technology. In fact, the number of malicious cryptocurrency miners skyrocketed in the third quarter of the year.
This is according to a new report from cybersecurity experts Kaspersky. In its latest report, the company says in Q3 2022, there has been a 230% rise in cryptocurrency miner variants, compared to the same period last year. Compared to Q3 2021, the number is up threefold.
That being said, in Q3 2022 alone, there were more than 150,000 different cryptocurrency miners identified as in use by criminals. Their profits, according to the researchers, can go as high as 2 BTC per month which, at current prices, is around $32,000. Most of the time, cybercrooks are opting for monero, a privacy-oriented cryptocurrency that’s almost impossible to trace.
Distribution via pirates
To distribute the miners, hackers are using platforms for the distribution of pirated content, such as movies, music, computer games, and commercial software. By masquerading the miners as cracks, activators, and even programs themselves, crooks are able to distribute the miners to a wide spectrum of victims.
Mining is a high-maintenance, low-margin operation. To engage in mining, one must have the latest computer hardware, plenty of electrical energy, and some bandwidth. With the cost of electricity going through the roof, and the price of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in significant decline, many legitimate miners are turning off their rigs and waiting for more profitable days.
However, by hijacking other people’s devices and electricity, criminals avoid the upfront cost of installation and generate pure profit, while the victims are left with underperforming endpoints and high electricity bills. The mining software is generally simple to compile, and can also be acquired on the dark web, relatively cheaply.
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