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Ransom Where? Malicious Cryptocurrency Miners Takeover, Generating Millions

January 2018 by

Recently, as cryptocurrency values have exploded, mining related attacks have emerged as a primary interest for many attackers who are beginning to recognize that they can realize all of the financial upside of previous attacks, like ransomware, without needing to actually engage the victim and without the extraneous law enforcement attention that comes with ransomware attacks. Over the past several months Talos has observed a marked increase in the volume of cryptocurrency mining software being maliciously delivered to victims. Key points from the blog include:

• In this new business model, attackers are no longer penalizing victims for opening an attachment, or running a malicious script by taking systems hostage and demanding a ransom. Now attackers are actively leveraging the resources of infected systems for cryptocurrency mining.
• IoT devices, with their lack of monitoring and lack of day to day user engagement, are fast becoming an attractive target for these attackers, as they offer processing power without direct victim oversight.
• To put the financial gains in perspective, an average system would likely generate about $0.25 of Monero per day, meaning that an adversary who has enlisted 2,000 victims (not a hard feat), could generate $500 per day or $182,500 per year.
• Talos has observed botnets consisting of millions of infected systems, which using our previous logic means that these systems could be leveraged to generate more than $100 million per year theoretically.
• The value of many cryptocurrencies are skyrocketing. Monero, one of the most popular mining targets, saw a 3000% increase over the last 12 months.
• Once the currency is mined, there is no telling what the attacker might do with it. This could become a long term investment (or even retirement) scheme for these attackers – sitting on this currency until it hits such a point where the attacker decides to cash in.

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