Cryptocurrency mining malware or miners, which are malicious programmes designed to secretly mine for cryptocurrencies from infected devices, by cybercriminals have increased in March 2021 from the preceding month after a steady decline over 2020. According to Kaspersky’s Malware Q1 2021 report, the number of unique modifications of miners from February to March 2021 grew more than 4X from 3,815 to 16,934. In total, 23,894 new modifications of miners were discovered in Q1 2021. “They’re (miners) often installed without users’ knowledge and then begin slowly siphoning off various types of crypto coins; in some cases, the miners walk away with millions,” the company said.
Moreover, the number of Kaspersky users who encountered miners on their devices also increased from 1,87,746 in January to 2,00,045 users in March 2021. Overall, 4,32,171 unique users had encountered miners in Q1 2021, according to the report. This is likely because of the rise in the value of cryptocurrencies. “It’s too early to say for sure if the trend we’ve noted in Q1 2021 is here to stay. However, it does seem that the increase in the value of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency has sparked a renewed interest in miners. If the crypto market remains strong this year, it’s like we’ll continue to see more instances of users encountering miners,” said Evgeny Lopatin, a security expert at Kaspersky.
The market cap of all cryptocurrencies has increased over three-fold from $776 billion on January 1, 2021, to $2.5 trillion on May 12 before it declined to $1.6 trillion, as of June 6, as per CoinMarketCap. Bitcoin had a majority share in the market cap, which increased from $543 billion on January 1 to $1.19 trillion on April 14 but currently stood at $674 billion. Likewise, Ethereum increased from $84 billion to $490 billion on May 12 before declining to $314 billion currently.
According to the updated India findings unveiled by Microsoft in July 2020 of its Security Endpoint Threat Report 2019, India was among the countries with the highest cryptocurrency mining encounters and drive-by download attacks during the year. While the country’s cryptocurrency mining encounter rate showed a 35 percent decline from 2018 but it was still 4.6 times higher than the regional and global average. India had recorded the second-highest encounter rate in the Asia Pacific after Sri Lanka.
“Since miners are often distributed as “riskware”, they are not automatically blocked by security solutions. You may want to configure your security solution’s settings to block any “riskware” programs. Always keep software updated on all the devices you use. To prevent miners from exploiting vulnerabilities, use tools that can automatically detect vulnerabilities and download and install patches,” Kaspersky said among measures to reduce the risk of being exposed to miners.