More than half of organizations around the world were struck by threat actors using cryptocurrency mining tools to steal corporate computing resources last month, a trend that will likely continue in 2018, according to recent research.

The Golden Age of Cryptocurrency Crime

The popularity of bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies is likely fueling interest among rogue actors to prey upon the CPU power behind major websites and streaming services. According to Check Point’s most recent “Global Threat Index,” the top 100 malware included 10 different kinds of cryptocurrency mining tools. In some cases, 65 percent of a system’s resources are being drained for mining, going far beyond legitimate or legal uses of the software.

Although the cybercriminals behind such attacks aren’t necessarily going after victims’ personal data or money, the tactics are somewhat similar. Infosecurity Magazine reported that some attackers inject malicious code into ads, otherwise known as malvertising, to install cryptocurrency mining tools designed to harvest Monero. All someone would have to do is click on a pop-up ad and the process would begin without their knowledge.

Digging Into Cryptocurrency Mining Tools

Many of the cryptocurrency mining applications in question were never intended to be misused like this. As WCCF Tech pointed out, Cryptoloot and Coinhive were initially seen as ways for certain online properties to generate additional revenue, but bad actors are capitalizing on their capabilities. In other cases, sites such as Pirate Bay have taken advantage of their visitors by running these tools quietly in the background.

Check Point research also revealed that there are some downright malicious cryptocurrency mining tools on the market, such as the RIG exploit kit. SecurityBrief suggested that, for some threat actors, harvesting bitcoin might be easier and more lucrative than using ransomware to take over an individual system or device.

As the cryptocurrency gold rush gains steam, there’s no telling how many more cybercriminals are going to get in on the act.

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