Cryptominers gain ground

As we predicted at the end of 2017, malicious cryptomining is booming in 2018, up by 44%.

Knowing how important and potentially devastating cybersecurity incidents and trends can be, we don’t make predictions lightly, or relish being right about them. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say our prediction has come to pass: 2018 has seen cryptominers take the place of ransomware as top (bad) dog.

Cryptominers fulfill our prophecy

Ransomware is dramatic and can be frightening for victims — from average home users manipulated by tales of illicit and embarrassing files on their computers to businesses strong-armed into paying larger sums to regain access to critical files. Ransomware, however, is in serious decline.

Our data shows that the number of users attacked by cryptomalware dropped by nearly half, from 1,152,299 in 2016–2017 to 751,606 in 2017–2018.

Meanwhile, crafty cryptominers have moved up to take ransomware’s place, invading users’ and businesses’ computers and devices and taking advantage of their power to put cryptocurrency in the pockets of thieves. Over the same two-year period, cryptominer encounters rose in total number, from 1.9 million to 2.7 million, as well as in share of threats detected, from 3% to 4%.

Cryptominers: Signs and symptoms

Whereas ransomware enters with a flourish and freaks out its victims, cryptominers strive to remain hidden — the longer they toil, the greater the perpetrators’ profit — and as a result, victims may not notice them for a time.

If you decide to try mining for yourself, you must anticipate the impact mining has. Someone else secretly using your electronic resources plays things a bit closer to the vest, but they can’t act in complete secrecy. A PC or mobile device secretly mining for currency may show subtle or obvious changes:

  • System response will slow; the device’s memory, processor, and graphics adapter are bogged down completing cryptomining tasks.
  • Batteries will run down much faster than before, and devices may run quite hot.
  • If the device uses a data plan, users will see data usage skyrocket.

Staying safe or recovering

If your suspicion has been raised by the abovementioned symptoms, take the following steps to ensure your system or device is clean — and stays that way.