UPDATED 23:22 EST / MARCH 22 2018


Symantec report finds cryptojacking surged 8,500% in the fourth quarter

new report from Symantec Corp. has confirmed what was already anecdotally well-known: Cryptojacking, the process of hijacking computers to mine cryptocurrency, surged in the last quarter of 2017 as the price of bitcoin shot up.

The report found that cryptojacking attacks made up 24 percent of all online attacks in December and 16 percent of online attacks in the last three months of 2017, with detection of coin miners by Symantec’s security software surging a stunning 8,500 percent in the quarter.

“Cybercriminals use coin miners to steal victims’ computer processing power and cloud CPU usage to mine cryptocurrencies,” the report noted. It added that because the barrier to entry for coin mining is low, it allows “criminals to fly under the radar in a way that is not possible with other types of cybercrime.”

“Victims may not even realize a coin miner is slurping their computer’s power as the only impact may be a slowdown of their device that they could easily attribute to something else,” the report said.

Computers are not alone in being targeted by cryptojacking attacks, with Symantec also detecting a 600 percent increase in attacks targeting “internet of things” devices.

The report also said ransomware attacks were up 46 percent in 2017 — a little surprising given that Malwarebytes Corp. said in January that ransomware was actually declining as cybercriminals turn to cryptojacking. A report from Recorded Future March 6 also noted that ransomware has become “just another tool in hackers’ utility belt” as cybercriminals move away from opportunistic attacks and move on to more profitable types of attacks, including cryptojacking.

Symantec said it’s currently tracking 140 active attack groups, with activity increasing 10 percent over the calendar year. Of those groups, 90 percent were involved in intelligence gathering, suggesting that they may be state-sponsored actors or involved in corporate espionage.

Image: Make-someones-day/Pixabay

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