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.

Three Key Crypto Trends to Watch in Q2 2019

This article is brought to you by OKEx, for more insights visit their blog.

As the second quarter of 2019 gets underway on the heels of an impressive bitcoin and altcoin price rally, more and more eyes are turning back to the crypto markets after the longest bear market in the young industry’s history.

Whether the bear market is truly over and we have reached “full capitulation” remains to be seen, but it’s important to see what this second quarter of 2019 might have in store.

Let's take a look at three key trends that may set the stage for crypto this summer and beyond.

Initial Exchange Offerings (IEOs)

The crypto world loves initialisms - ICOs, STOs, PoW, P2P. IEO - Initial Exchange Offering - is the latest, and has unquestionably been the new one for 2019.

In essence an IEO is an ICO, but launched exclusively via an exchange, and with the exchange’s vetting and backing. Furthermore, tokens are often only purchasable using the exchange’s native token.

This new model of token sale has garnered a lot of attention in the first quarter of 2019, and seen interest in the altcoin market pick up after a very dismal 2018. Several exchanges have launched their own IEO platform and new IEOs are being listed every week.

Many in the industry see IEOs as an improved model that will bring new funds into the market.

There are some significant benefits for investors when compared with the standard ICO model. Firstly when an exchange lists the token they can rest assured that substantial due diligence has gone into the project. Secondly it means that the tokens are tradable instantly, meaning that investors can buy and sell straight away, much like an IPO.

The project’s themselves also benefit as they can save time on marketing and technical expenses involved with issuing tokens directly, giving them more time to focus on the project itself.

It also makes sense for exchanges as they can attract new users and earn placement fees. It’s no wonder why the ICO model has been reimagined and has proven popular. 

OKEx's new IEO platform, JumpStart is gaining popularity as part of this new altcoin scene. As part of this new model which aims to ensure greater scrutiny of the projects involved, OKEx has taken the novel step of asking users what they think can be improved about their existing rules for token sales:

 

Bitcoin ETF

One of the themes that has dominated headlines in the last year and a half has been the hotly-anticipated decision from the U.S. SEC regarding the VanEck SolidX Bitcoin ETF (Exchange Traded Fund) application. Every announcement, delay and new deadline for the application’s approval has spurred a deluge of news articles, tweets and bitcoin price movements.

A bitcoin ETF would allow investors to invest and trade in a vehicle which tracks the performance of bitcoin, but without the need to actually own any. The reason for the excitement surrounding the ETF is that in theory it will draw in a much larger institutional crowd who have so far stayed on the sidelines of crypto investing due to wariness about compliance, concerns about security and the lack of infrastructure which exists with traditional financial assets. Gabor Gurbacs, Head of Digital Assets at VanEck, concisely summarizes what he thinks the ETF brings to the table:

Not all actors in the crypto ecosystem however, agree.

Bitcoin veteran and author of Mastering Bitcoin, Andreas M. Antonopolous, believes that while a bitcoin ETF will eventually be approved, ultimately it will be “damaging to the ecosystem.”

For Antonopoulos, although a bitcoin ETF may move prices and volumes, much like it did when introduced to the gold market, it fundamentally runs counter to the decentralized ethos which animates the Bitcoin experiment:

I’m going to burst your bubble...I know a lot of people really want to see an ETF happen because “to the moon and lambos!” But I think it is a terrible idea. I still think it is going to happen, I just think it is a terrible idea. I’m actually against ETFs.I think a Bitcoin ETF is going to be damaging to the ecosystem.

What seems almost universally agreed upon by both critics and proponents alike however, is that it if a Bitcoin ETF is approved, it will have a marked effect on the bitcoin (and likely other cryptoassets’) price and volumes as institutional money flows in.

While the SEC has delayed and extended the period of approval on several occasions, the latest deadline set by the body is May 21. Whether this will be the final, 'final' deadline, or there will actually be an approval - remains to be seen.

Decentralized Finance (DeFi)

Another trend to take note of in 2019 is Decentralized Finance or ‘DeFi.’ A broad term which encompasses a range of financial tools built on a blockchain including stablecoins, prediction markets, lending protocols and exchanges (among others), it is now garnering attention as the amount of money moving into DeFi grows.

According to data provider DeFi Pulse, there is already 2.5 million ether (ETH), or nearly $420 million locked in by smart contracts issued on dApp networks.

One of the most prominent companies in the space is Maker. The company’s decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) supports Dai - a stablecoin pegged to the value of the USD. Using an innovative system to ensure stability, users lock in ETH as collateral to open what’s known as a Collateralized Debt Position. As it stands, MakerDAO is now holding $367 million worth of ETH.

Bitcoin’s Lightning Network is also considered to be part of the DeFi ecosystem, currently holding over $5m of value, having grown enormously from less than $100,000 just over a year ago. It is hoped that the layer two scaling solution will allow bitcoin to scale transactions and become a fast and cheap medium of exchange.

Other notable examples of DeFi include Dharma ($2.7 million), whose Protocol enables decentralized, tokenized lending on Ethereum, and Augur ($1 million), the decentralized prediction markets platform.

With more and more money entering the DeFi ecosystem every week, and the promise of broadening the world of financial services beyond its traditional bounds, this sector is poised to revolutionize finance and bring crypto into the mainstream. This sector is definitely one to watch this quarter.