Almost Two Thirds of UK IT Companies Have Been Crypto-Jacked

Big companies are very aware of hackers using their computers to mine cryptocurrency without permission.

Market research in the UK has found that almost two-thirds of IT companies have experienced crypto-jacking attacks.

80 percent attacked in the last six months

The survey asked 750 IT executives across the UK a number of questions related to their experience with malicious cryptocurrency mining software. 59 percent of respondents said that they had experienced an attack, and of those, 80 percent happened in the last six months.

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The poll found that in 11 percent of cases, more than 100 devices had been affected by an attack.

Crypto-jacking is when a computer or network of computers is infected with a virus that secretly mines cryptocurrency and sends it to the perpetrators. It doesn’t steal anything exactly, but mining is a very CPU-heavy task so the virus will dramatically affect performance.

The poll said that 16 percent of those that had experienced such an attack noticed it because of the performance of their computers. Worryingly, only seven percent were made aware by anti-virus software. 38 percent came across the virus via standard network monitoring.

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Mining epidemic

As this survey suggests, these attacks are quite common.

In December 2017 it was discovered that Facebook Messenger on Chrome had been infected by a virus called Digimine in countries in Asia and South America. In January 2018, a virus called WinstarNssmMiner was found. When confronted with an anti-virus programme it causes the computer to crash, and it has made $26,800 for its operators.

In March, users of a certain Linux plugin in Japan, Taiwan, China, India, and the US unknowingly earned some lucky hackers a total of $74,677. And earlier this month a virus was discovered in Brazil that has infected approximately 70,000 routers in that country, including one serving a hospital, and 170,820 worldwide. The routers serve millions of users. The virus uses a legitimate piece of software called Coinhive to mine cryptocurrency, but it is all sent to the hacker’s wallet.

Takeaways

The research was carried out by OnePoll, a British market research company with offices in London, Bristol, and New York. It was commissioned by Citrix, an American multinational software company based in California. The research found that 67 percent of companies had some kind of plan in place for a crypto-jacking attack, against only 21 percent that had no policy.

In February, these two companies researched the cryptocurrency holdings of UK companies and found that a majority have invested. However, they found that many had entered into a vicious cycle whereby they kept some Bitcoin to pay off hackers in future ransomware attacks, but the holding actually had the effect of attracting hackers.

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