Cyber Security: Europol warns of cryptocurrency hacking & mining malware

The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, also known as Europol, has released a report warning against the increasing attacks on cryptocurrency, extortion and mining.

According to the security agency’s report titled: “Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment 2018” (IOCTA), published on Wednesday, the holdings of those using cryptocurrencies, as well as exchanges, are increasingly at risk of “criminal abuse” as the financial technology grows.

Previous reports by Europol has also shown that online criminals are increasingly turning to cryptocurrencies to fund their illicit activities.

The new report also added that terror groups have sought to raise funds using cryptocurrencies, “yet despite the clear potential, none of the attacks carried out on European soil appear to have been funded via cryptocurrencies,”

Europol also noted that, “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.”

Increasingly, Europol goes on, cryptocurrency exchanges, miners and other users face the risk of hacking attempts and even “extortion of personal data and theft.”

More so, the report also highlighted the risks of decentralized exchanges, that are not controlled by a single centralized entity, saying:

“Money launderers have evolved to use cryptocurrencies in their operations and are increasingly facilitated by new developments such as decentralised exchanges which allow exchanges without any Know Your Customer requirements. It is likely that high-privacy cryptocurrencies will make the current mixing services and tumblers obsolete.”

The use of illicit crypto mining programs, or cryptojacking, is also listed as an emerging trend in the world of cybercrime.

CoinDesk once reported that, between June 2017 to June 2018, malicious crypto-mining attacks jumped a massive 956 percent, overtaking ransomware as the cyber-thief’s preferred tool of the trade. Even so, ransomware remains “the key threat in both law enforcement and industry reporting,” Europol confirmed.

The report further added that, illicit miners hidden in website code – harnessing victims’ processor power to mine cryptos – create “additional revenue streams and therefore motivation for attackers to hack legitimate websites to exploit their visitor systems.

Similarly, mining malware “can cripple a victims system by monopolising their processing power.”

The report warns that the latter activity is expected to become “a regular, low-risk revenue stream for cybercriminals.”

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