McAfee Labs warns crypto mining malware will continue to outpace ransomware

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In the McAfee Threats Report for September 2018, security researchers highlight the surge of crypto mining malware that started last year and continued in the first half of this year.

The threat actors saw the opportunity in the growing popularity of cryptocurrency. “Total coin miner malware almost doubled (up 86 percent) in the second quarter with more than 2.5 million new samples, compared with 990,000 for ransomware,” the security researchers wrote.

Criminals concentrate on specific groups to target as opposed to scouring a large area to spot potential victims. These groups include Russian gamers who are lured to a fake “mod” that promises to “enhance popular games.” In pursuit of a better gaming experience, gamers are com

In some cases, crypto mining targets specific groups rather than a broad field of potential victims. One crypto mining malware strain has targeted gamers on a Russian forum by posing as a “mod” claiming to enhance popular games. Gamers were tricked into clicking and downloading the malicious software.

BusinessWire quoted Christiaan Beek, Lead Scientist and Senior Principal Engineer with McAfee Advanced Threat Research, as saying: “A few years ago, we wouldn’t think of internet routers, video-recording devices, and other Internet of Things devices as platforms for crypto mining because their CPU speeds were too insufficient to support such productivity. Today, the tremendous volume of such devices online and their propensity for weak passwords present a very attractive platform for this activity. If I were a cybercriminal who owns a botnet of 100,000 such IoT devices, it would cost me next to nothing financially to produce enough cryptocurrency to create a new, profitable revenue stream.”

Apart from crypto mining malware, the McAfee report also saw a new billing fraud on Google Play. The McAfee Mobile Research team found 15 new apps including a ringtone of the hit song “Despacito” that contained a fake installer app aimed at subscribing users to premium-rate services without their knowledge.

JavaScript malware also saw a surge in the second quarter: After decreasing significantly during the last three quarters, JavaScript malware increased by 204 percent in the second quarter with more than seven million new samples.

The BusinessWire further reported that in the second quarter of this year, McAfee Labs were able to detect “five new threats a second including new threats showing notable technical developments that improve upon the latest successful technologies and tactics to outmaneuver their targets’ defenses.”

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