A visual representation of the digital cryptocurrency--Bitcoin. India ranks second in the Asia-Pacific Japan region and ninth globally in terms of crypto mining activities. Photo: Getty Images
A visual representation of the digital cryptocurrency--Bitcoin. India ranks second in the Asia-Pacific Japan region and ninth globally in terms of crypto mining activities. Photo: Getty Images

Cybersecurity: Cryptojacking attacks exploded by 8,500% in 2017, says report

The astronomical rise in cryptocurrency values last year triggered a cryptojacking rush with cyber criminals attempting to cash in on a volatile market, says a report by Symantec

New Delhi: Cryptojacking attacks exploded by 8,500% in 2017 becoming the latest threat to cyber and personal security with cyber criminals creating a profitable new revenue stream from it as the ransomware market becomes overpriced and overcrowded, according to Symantec’s latest Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR) released on Wednesday.

The report deep dives into the world’s largest civilian global intelligence network, revealing the latest trends and cyber security attacks statistics.

The astronomical rise in cryptocurrency values last year triggered a cryptojacking rush with cyber criminals attempting to cash in on a volatile market. Detections of coin miners on endpoint computers increased by 8,500% in 2017.

India ranks second in the Asia-Pacific Japan (APJ) region and ninth globally in terms of crypto mining activities. According to Tarun Kaura, director, enterprise security product management, Asia Pacific and Japan, Symantec: “The massive profit incentive puts people, devices and organizations at risk of unauthorized coin miners siphoning resources from their systems, further motivating criminals to infiltrate everything from home PCs to giant data centers."

With a low barrier of entry—only requiring a couple lines of code to operate—cyber criminals are harnessing stolen processing power and cloud CPU usage from consumers and enterprises to mine cryptocurrency. Coinminers can slow devices, overheat batteries, and in some cases, render devices unusable. For enterprise organizations, coinminers can put corporate networks at risk of shutdown and inflate cloud CPU usage, adding cost. “Now you could be fighting for resources on your phone, computer or IoT device as attackers use them for profit," added Kaura. “People need to expand their defenses or they will pay for the price for someone else using their device."

Not surprisingly, IoT (internet of things) devices continue to be ripe targets for exploitation, with a 600% increase in overall IoT attacks in 2017. According to the report, India ranks among the top five countries as a source for IoT attacks.

In 2016, the profitability of ransomware led to a crowded market. India ranks fourth globally with eight percent of global ransomware.

In 2017, the market made a correction, lowering the average ransom cost to $522 and signalling that ransomware has become a commodity. Symantec believes that many cyber criminals may have shifted their focus to coin mining as an alternative to cashing in while cryptocurrency values are high.

Additionally, threats in the mobile space continue to grow year-over-year, including the number of new mobile malware variants which increased by 54%. Symantec blocked an average of 24,000 malicious mobile applications each day last year. India also featured among the top 10 countries where mobile malware was most frequently blocked in 2017.

Symantec’s ISTR provides a comprehensive view of the threat landscape, including insights into global threat activity, cyber criminal trends and motivations for attackers. The report analyzes data from the Symantec Global Intelligence Network, the largest civilian threat collection network in the world, records events from 126.5 million attack sensors worldwide and monitors threat activities in over 157 countries and territories.

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