Cryptocurrencies: What Are The Threats Posed By Mining?

At the beginning of 2017, the currency was close to the EUR 1,600 mark, before experiencing a surge that brought it to a record high of more than EUR 16,000 in December 2017. Since then, demand has fallen and, at At the time of writing, the Bitcoin price has fallen to 8,106 EUR.

While Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency, many alternative currencies, also known as altcoins, have emerged and gained value in the past year. This is particularly the case of the Dogecoin which, despite its status of parodic cryptocurrency created by an Internet meme, crossed a symbolic course in January 2018 when its capitalization reached 2 billion dollars .

Today, it is almost impossible to make profits by mining Bitcoins (BTCP Electrum) with consumer devices such as a laptop, smartphone or desktop PC. At this advanced stage of Bitcoin evolution, it takes too much time to make the right calculations, and the electricity expenditure exceeds most of the time the revenue that a miner can expect from his activity. Other altcoins like Monero use different algorithms that make them viable alternatives for budding miners. With them, it is still possible to make a profit by creating altcoins using standard devices.

The value of most cryptocurrencies is closely related to that of Bitcoin, as their trajectories are often parallel. Thus, a rise in Bitcoin generally affects altcoins. Monero, who was very early adopted by the Darknet markets , took advantage of this effect. While its value hovered around EUR 8 in January 2017, its price jumped to EUR 228 in the space of one year.

The cryptocurrency phenomenon always has some shadow areas. Observers are also very divided about their relative value and currency status, and the debate seems set to last. If we look at cybersecurity, it is nevertheless a certainty: the possibility of undermining altcoins on consumer equipment, combined with a rise in the price of Bitcoin which makes mining a lucrative business, but also to the maturity of technologies related to cryptocurrency, has led to an upsurge in related attacks.

Several vectors of attacks

We have seen a sudden rise in cryptocurrency attacks. Their frequency as well as their diversity exploded, mainly because of the extraordinary growth experienced by Bitcoin during this period.

Yesterday, hackers monetized their activities via banking Trojan horses, via the fraudulent use of bank cards and the sale of stolen data and ransomware on the Darknet. But criminals are known for their adaptability and follow the money wherever they go, which explains the current popularity of cryptojacking, that is to say the secret use of devices to undermine cryptocurrency.

While cryptocurrency mining (BTCP Electrum) does not offer hackers a return on investment as immediate as the ransomware, but it has the advantage of being able to be carried out for months in all discretion where a ransomware immediately draws the attention of victims . It must be said that a mining software installed on a corporate computer is likely to escape the vigilance of users and security software, as it presents no visible threat or message to the user concerned, except for a one-time increase in CPU or RAM activity.

Identifying these attacks can be very complex for traditional security tools, which have not been designed to identify this type of threat. Only an approach based on the evolutionary understanding of behavioral models is capable of detecting attacks of this kind, unless it is specifically asked to look for them.