Several coins may have lost value in recent months after an unprecedented rise last year, but cryptojacking continues to reign supreme. This relatively new malicious form of making money online appears to be gaining ground over ransomware. Over the past year, a number of high-profile ransomware attacks have targeted some of the world’s largest organizations, crippling entire hospitals.
However, criminals are now moving away from ransomware for easier-to-deploy cryptojacking attacks that can be carried out without needing to require your victim to send you money to retrieve their files. While mining cryptocurrency this way takes its time, infecting hundreds of thousands of machines, criminals can and appear to be making huge profits.
New cryptojacking threats jumped 1,189% in Q1
It should be noted that ransomware is not going anywhere, especially since the publicity of NSA exploits that continue to be used by ransomware campaigns to target unpatched systems. However, it’s also remarkable how cryptojacking takes over ransomware despite falling cryptocurrency values.
“Attackers targeting cryptocurrencies can switch from ransomware to coin miner malware, which hijacks systems to mine cryptocurrency and increase their profits,” writes Raj Samani, chief scientist at McAfee.
“Coin miner malware increased 629% to over 2.9 million known samples in the first quarter, up from nearly 400,000 samples in the fourth quarter,” McAfee’s latest report reveals. “This suggests that cybercriminals are heating up at the prospect of monetizing infections of user systems without enticing victims to make payments, as is the case with popular ransomware programs.”
Compared to well-established cybercrime activities such as data theft and ransomware, cryptojacking is easier, more straightforward, and less risky.
All criminals need to do is infect millions of systems and start monetizing the attack by mining cryptocurrencies on victims’ systems. There are no middlemen, there are no fraudulent schemes, and there are no victims who need to be made to pay and who potentially can back up their systems in advance and refuse to pay.
This latest online crime is not only easier to execute, but it is also stealthy, ensuring that even security-conscious users can be exploited for mining purposes.
While there has been an unprecedented growth in mining malware, ransomware has seen a 32% drop at the same time, which is largely the result of an “81% drop in malware on Android lock screen, ”the report suggests.
Several other reports have already shared the same numbers with declining ransomware in favor of cryptojacking. In the long run, however, ransomware could make a comeback, especially if major cryptocurrencies continue to experience a decline in value late last year.
– More interesting information available in McAfee report [PDF].