Victims of malicious crypto miners increase by 44% – as 2.7 million internet users are targeted in a year

• The number of internet users that have been attacked by malicious crypto currency mining software has increased from 1.9 million to 2.7 million in just one year

The number of internet users that have been attacked by malicious crypto currency mining software has increased from 1.9 million to 2.7 million in just one year. Statistics for the last 24 months show that miners are increasingly focused on developing markets, and are taking advantage of internet users in these regions to grow their revenues. This is one of the key findings in Kaspersky Lab’s annual ransomware and malicious crypto miners report, 2016-2018. The report, which covers two similar periods (April to March 2016-2017 and April to March 2017-2018), shows that while ransomware can provide cybercriminals with potentially large but one-off rewards in a turbulent landscape, miners might make less money out of their victims, but through a more sustainable/ longer-term model. This is naturally gaining popularity among the cyber criminal community.

Kaspersky Lab experts have detected a significant change in the cyberthreat landscape: PC and mobile ransomware attacks on unique users dropped dramatically in 2017-2018 (by almost 30% and 22.5% respectively). Cybercriminals are instead opting to make their money out of crypto currency miners – specialized “mining” software which creates a new currency unit (or coin) by using the computing power of the victim PC and mobile devices. Malicious miners do so at the expense of other users, capitalizing on the power of their computers and devices without their knowledge.

According to the report, PC crypto miners are steadily growing. The total number of users who encountered this form of mining rose from 1,899,236 in 2016-2017, to 2,735,611 in 2017-2018.

Mobile crypto miners are also emerging as a threat, with unique attacks growing by 9.5%. Overall, this form of mining targeted almost 5,000 users in 2017-2018, compared to around 4,500 users in 2016-2017. Mobile users in China and India are particularly victimized by this threat.

“The reasons behind these changes in the cyberthreat landscape are clear. For cybercriminals, ransomware is a noisy and risky way of making money; it attracts media and state attention. The mining model however, is easier to activate and more stable – you attack your victims, discreetly build crypto currency using their CPU or GPU power, and then transfer that into real money through legal exchanges and transactions,” notes Anton Ivanov, security expert at Kaspersky Lab.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • The total number of users who encountered ransomware fell by almost 30%, from 2,581,026 in 2016-2017 to 1,811,937 in 2017-2018;
  • The proportion of users who encountered ransomware at least once out of the total number of users who encountered malware fell by around 1 percentage point, from 88% in 2016-2017 to 2.80% in 2017-2018;
  • Among those who encountered ransomware, the proportion who encountered cryptors fell by around 3 percentage points, from 6% in 2016-2017 to 41.5% in 2017-2018;
  • The number of users attacked with cryptors almost halved, from 1,152,299 in 2016-2017 to 751,606 in 2017-2018;
  • The number of users attacked with mobile ransomware fell by 5% from 130,232 in 2016-2017 to 100,868 in 2017-2018;
  • The total number of users who encountered miners rose by almost 5% from 1,899,236 in 2016-2017 to 2,735,611 in 2017-2018;
  • The share of miners detected, from the overall number of threats detected, also grew from almost 3% in 2016-2017 to over 4% in 2017-2018;
  • The share of miners detected, from overall risk tool detections, is also on the rise – from over 5% in 2016-2017 to almost 8% in 2017-2018;
  • The total number of users who encountered mobile miners also grew – but at a steadier pace, growing by 5% from 4,505in 2016-2017 to 4,931 in 2017-2018.

To reduce the risk of infection with ransomware and miners, users are advised to :

  1. Treat email attachments, or messages from people you don’t know, with caution. If in doubt, don’t open it.
  2. Back up data regularly.
  3. Always keep software updated on all the devices you use. To prevent miners and ransomware from exploiting vulnerabilities, use tools that can automatically detect vulnerabilities and download and install patches.
  4. For personal devices, use a reliable consumer security solution and remember to keep key features – such as System Watcher – switched on.
  5. For superior protection use an endpoint security solution that is powered by behavior detection and able to roll back malicious actions.
  6. Don’t overlook less obvious targets, such as queue management systems, POS terminals, and even vending machines. As the miner that relied on the EternalBlue exploit shows, such equipment can also be hijacked to mine cryptocurrency.
  7. Use application control to track malicious activity in legitimate applications. Specialized devices should be in Default Deny mode. Use dedicated security solution, such as Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Business that includes these functions.
  8. To protect the corporate environment, educate your employees and IT teams, keep sensitive data separate, restrict access, and always back up everything.
  9. Last, but not least, remember that ransomware is a criminal offence. You shouldn’t pay. If you become a victim, report it to your local law enforcement agency.
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