Illicit cryptocurrency mining is on the rise

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If your computer and/or smart fridge has been running slow in the last few months, you might be in the cryptocurrency mining business and not even realize it. A new paper by the cybersecurity industry group Cyber Threat Alliance finds that rates of cryptojacking — the term for secretly installed malware stealing your computing power to mine cryptocurrency for someone else — have risen by 459 percent since 2017.

While an individual person might need multiple powerful computers dedicated to mining in order to recoup a single Bitcoin, organizations involved in cryptojacking can get around this assumed pre-requisite by distributing the power of a single miner between several devices. Instead of Bitcoin, cryptojackers often dedicate their stolen power on cryptocurrencies such as Monero, whose code is meant to resist powerful industrial-strength mining rigs and, whose relative anonymity is great if you’ve just mined some of it using malware and would like to convert it to cash. Additionally, as more people install Internet-of-Things-enabled devices in their house, that gives illicit crypto miners more opportunities to jack your shit.

Besides the fact that if your smart TV is going to be mining Monero while you binge-watch The Sopranos or whatever the money might as well be going to you, such malware often puts your device in perpetual overdrive, which both slows down your machine and potentially shorten its lifespan. The CTA notes, however, that sophisticated mining software will disable itself when it detects user activity, or only run when you think your computer is in sleep mode.

Right about now, you might find yourself asking, “What asshole would make such sophisticated software?” Well, in case you didn’t read the headline of this blog post, the answer is “The National Security Agency.” Many mining networks gain access to their victims’ devices using EternalBlue, an NSA-built software that was leaked by hackers in 2017. While the Eternal suite of products focused on Windows devices, the future of cryptojacking, per CTA, is probably in the Internet of Things, especially if the price of cryptocurrencies ever rise again. Though your smart TV doesn’t have the same processing power as even a laptop, higher crypto prices mean higher incentives for malicious actors to figure out how to exploit whatever internet-connected devices they can.

So, uh, yeah, have fun with your unnecessary smart home — you might end up helping some scammer get Monero rich.



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