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Cryptomining malware expected to become regular, low-risk revenue stream for cybercriminals: Europol

Sep 20, 2018 10:06 am UTC

Europol, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, has underscored the growing criminal abuse of cryptocurrencies in a new report.

The agency has published "Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment 2018" (IOCTA) in which it has pointed out the rise in hacking attempts on cryptocurrency exchanges, mining and wallet services.

The report said that “cryptojacking” is an emerging cybercrime trend, which involves exploiting internet users’ bandwidth and processing power to mine cryptocurrencies. It emphasized that cryptomining malware could become a regular, low-risk revenue stream for cybercriminals.

“Cryptomining attacks may have minimal impact on their victims, resulting in few complaints made to law enforcement. Those which are reported may also not be given a high priority. It is therefore essential that law enforcement works with the internet security industry to curtail this activity and restrict this source of criminal revenue,” it said.

Internet giants are well aware of this growing threat and are already taking measures to protect users. Earlier this year, Opera rolled out cryptocurrency mining protection in all its mobile browsers. In April, Google announced a ban on Chrome extensions that mine cryptocurrency. More recently, the Mozilla Foundation, the not-for-profit organization behind Firefox, has announced its plans to start automatically blocking cryptomining scripts in the future versions of its web browser.

The report further noted that while Bitcoin’s share of the cryptocurrency market is shrinking, it is still the predominant cryptocurrency encountered in cybercrime investigations.

Importantly, while the authors claimed that terrorist groups have sought to raise funds via cryptocurrencies, they said that none of the attacks in Europe have been funded via cryptocurrencies. The report said:

"Yet despite the clear potential, none of the attacks carried out on European soil appear to have been funded via cryptocurrencies. The use of cryptocurrencies by terrorist groups has only involved low-level transactions – their main funding still stems from conventional banking and money remittance services."

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