UK National Cyber Security Centre Lists Cryptojacking As “Significant” Threat

  • The UK's National Cyber Security Centre revealed cryptojacking is a cause for concern, and that it may become a legitimate source of income for website owners.
  • Cryptojacking has been growing in popularity among cybercriminals, and may affect a growing number of people in the next few years.

According to a report published by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) this week, cryptojacking will be categorised as a form of cybercrime in the UK, as it is now seen as a “significant” cybersecurity concern. Per the organization, it’s likely going to “become a regular source of income for website owners.”

Cryptojacking essentially sees cybercriminals use other people’s computer resources to mine cryptocurrencies. Often, criminals mine privacy-centric cryptocurrencies like Monero (XMR), both to avoid detection and maximize profits mining with CPUs.

In the NCSC's comprehensive report, activities like cryptojacking, the use of cryptocurrency within targeted cybercrime, and ransomware were added as cause for concern. Unlike conventional currencies, cryptocurrencies like Monero offer anonymity to their users, cutting off potential trails leading to the criminals’ arrest.

Cryptojacking On The Rise

According to the report, cryptojacking cases have been increasing in number since 2016. Research conducted in December 2017 showed that 55% of businesses across the world have been infiltrated by cybercriminals looking to use their systems to mine.

By 2018/19, it's believed that cryptojacking will expand and affect a fast-growing number of people and businesses across the world. The report goes on to demonstrate that there are already 600 websites operating in the UK using visitor CPU resources to mine cryptocurrencies. The document reads:

"The technique of delivering cryptocurrency miners through malware has been used for several years, but it is likely in 2018-19 that one of the main threats will be a newer technique of mining cryptocurrency which exploits visitors to a website."

NCSC report

The report further notes that when being cryptojacked, users may only notice a “slight slowdown in performance,” meaning some cases go undetected. Although most cases involve cybercriminals using people’s resources without their consent, some websites ask for user consent as an alternative to showing ads.

The NCSC, at the end of the report, advised users to protect themselves with ad blockers and anti-malware programs that block cryptojacking scripts. A few browsers, including Opera and Brave, have built-in tools that block cryptocurrency miners.

Cybercrime in the UK has increased over the past few years; from WannaCry to present, with a growing number of crimes taking place in the UK. According to the Office of National Statistics, the volume of cybercrime has risen by 63% compared to last year.

The monetary cost of the rising cybercrime attacks has provoked action; the cabinet office reported that, without countermeasures, cybercrime would cost British businesses and taxpayers up to £27 billion (~$38 billion) annually.

Australian Central Bank Governor Skeptical of Facebook’s Cryptocurrency Libra

  • Australian Central Bank Governor believes Facebook's Libra will fail to live up to its hype.
  • Central Banks around the globe are under pressure as digital currencies become more prevalent. 

The head of Australia’s central bank Philip Lowe remains skeptical of Facebook’s recently announced digital currency, Libra.

Regulators Respond

Libra has managed to garner a vast amount of regulatory attention, despite only being officially announced this month. The U.S. Senate has already moved for a hearing to be held next week, with David Marcus, Vice President of Messaging Products at Facebook -- leader of Facebook's cryptocurrency project Calibra -- expected to be in attendance.

Facebook has over 2 billion active users, creating the potential for Libra to become one of the world’s most used currencies upon launch. And of course, central banks around the world are taking notice.

‘Water Under the Bridge’ for Libra

Lowe, who has been Governor of the Australian central bank since 2016, has a history of skepticism towards cryptocurrency. In a Q&A session held on Thursday, June 20, he explained that Facebook’s new currency will fail to live up to the hype,

“There’s a lot of water under the bridge before Facebook’s proposal becomes something we’re using all the time.”

He continued,

“There are a lot of regulatory issues that need to be addressed and they’ve got to make sure there’s a solid business case, so we’ve got to be careful before we jump to conclusions.”

Lowe has been critical of cryptoassets in the past, taking aim at bitcoin in 2017 when he described the currency as “speculative mania”. He also said at the time that cryptocurrency would be more appealing to criminals than actual customers.

Central Banks Under Fire

Earlier in the week, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney gave his official stance on Facebook’s coin, claiming that it could be important for cross-border transactions. However, Carney warned that the new currency would be held to the highest standard and that the BOE held an “open mind but not an open door” attitude towards Libra.

Central Banks around the world are appearing cautious in their treatment of Libra, and for good reason. Given the reach of Facebook as a global platform, the currency has the potential to disrupt existing fiat institutions--an idea being lauded by members of the cryptocurrency community.

However, other community members remain frustrated with Facebook’s attempt to portray Libra as a cryptocurrency despite its obvious centralization, including Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao

Nonetheless, Libra remains a massive opportunity to increase the exposure of cryptocurrencies to a mainstream audience. It comes as no surprise bitcoin has reached a new high in price for 2019 following the attention generated by Facebook's new coin.