With the advent of cryptocurrency mining as a means of income, it was only a matter of time before hackers and malicious entities attempted to exploit the system. According to a report by Coin Desk, Kaspersky Lab has recently issued documentation showing that more than 1.65 million computers have been targeted by malware attacks specifically related to cryptocurrency mining in the first eight months of 2017.
Hacks Attempt to Take Control Over Machines
Kaspersky, a Russia-based cybersecurity firm, revealed last week that the computers in question were running their own security software, which successfully protected them from the malicious attacks. (See more: Second Major Ethereum Hack In a Week Leads to $34 Million Theft.) Those computers without protection ran the risk of being co-opted by hackers, turning the rig into a mining operation funneling profits to a hacker source without the owner being aware of the change.
So far, the total number of attempted malware hacks for 2017 appears on track to surpass the total number of hack attempts detected for 2016. (See more: Can Bitcoin Be Hacked?) In that year, 1.8 million computers were affected. To show just how much the mining business has grown and the timeframe in which this growth has taken place, the number of mining malware attacks in 2014 was just 700,000, using Kaspersky's metric.
Botnets Feed Growing Attack Figures
One reason why the number of hack attempts has grown so quickly, according to Kaspersky's report, is that there are now a number of botnets which are specifically focused on conducting malicious mining activities. "This results in threat actors receiving cryptocurrency, while their victims' computer systems experience a dramatic slowdown," the report states. "Over the last month alone, we have detected several large botnets designed to profit from concealed crypto mining."
To augment Kasperksy's report, it's important to note that the information revealed by the security firm only shows those computers that were running Kaspersky anti-malware software. The report did not include an estimate of how many machines are infected around the world. The number is likely to be significantly higher. Kaspersky also did not indicate the effectiveness of its security software in its report, neglecting to mention if any of its customers were infected by malware in spite of the protective services they were running.
To be fair, cryptocurrency mining botnets have been in existence for some time now. Hackers have traditionally infected both Windows and Linux machines. In some cases, botnets may also infect machines which lack the sufficient processing power necessary to mine for any type of cryptocurrency.
Mining is a resource-intensive operation, requiring special computing power and hardware, including expensive graphics processing units. As with any new technology, developments have taken place quickly, exposing vulnerabilities which hacking groups have used to their advantage.