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.

Here’s Why Cryptocurrency Experts Aren’t Worried About Facebook’s Cryptocurrency Libra

Various experts in the cryptocurrency have, on social media, been revealing they aren’t worried about Facebook’s new stablecoin, set to be named Libra. According to them, the cryptocurrency may be backed by a giant corporation, but won’t compete with the likes of bitcoin.

The social media giant’s cryptocurrency, according to recently revealed information, is set to be backed by a basket of fiat currencies to avoid price fluctuations, and will be usable for low or no-fee payments between Facebook’s users on its platform, including WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Facebook has reportedly spoken to financial institutions to form a $1 billion fund to create collateral, and is said to have spoken to merchants to get them to accept its Libra cryptocurrency as a payment method, going as far as offering sign-up bonuses.

An allegedly leaked blog post sees Facebook criticizing existing cryptocurrencies over their failure to achieve mass adoption, and being poor solutions to store value and transact. The company is reportedly also looking to create physical ATMs for its cryptocurrency, and has asked partners to pay $10 million to run a node and validate transactions.

So why is Libra not a threat to Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies, according to experts? Speaking to CryptoGlobe at the CryptoCompare Digital Asset Summit, the author of “Mastering Bitcoin” Andreas Antonopoulos noted there are five pillars, or five principles, to evaluate the blockchain he’s interested in:

  1. “Whether the system is open
  2. Whether the system is public
  3. Whether the system is borderless
  4. Whether the system is neutral
  5. Whether the system is censorship-resistant”

Antonopoulos added that taking these five pillars into account, a look at Facebook’s Libra paints a different picture. While Bitcoin, for example, is open, public, borderless, neutral, and censorship-resistant, the same can’t be said about a cryptocurrency being issued by one of the biggest companies in the world.

Facebook's Libra Lacks Features Bitcoin Has

He noted it can’t be open as every participant has to be vetted, identified and authorized by the social media giant, and that individuals can’t openly join the system because of this. The system is closed, and connecting applications to it or trade it in independent markets is also impossible with Facebook’s approval.

Moreover, the cryptocurrency expert added that since Facebook has to follow regulations, Libra won’t be borderless, as it’ll have to exclude specific countries from its network, while also having to track payments across borders.

Facebook’s cryptocurrency is also not neutral, because it “very much cares,” because of regulatory restrictions, who the sender and the recipient of every transaction is, and what purpose each payment has. Because of this, it’s also not censorship-resistant, as the social media giant has to censor transactions under the law.

He added:

So it's not an open, public blockchain. It's not a cryptocurrency. What it is, is a banking payment system implemented by a social media surveillance company.

Charlie Shrem, a renowned cryptocurrency entrepreneur seemingly agrees with Antonopoulos, as on social media he revealed he sees “FacebookCoin” as an attempt by the traditional financial system and big tech to “lure people away from Bitcoin.”

Facebook's Cryptocurrency Will Threaten Banks, Not Bitcoin

Per Antonopoulos, Facebook’s Libra will have the “worst characteristics of surveillance capitalism, combined with all of the inconveniences, seizures, freezing, and bureaucracy, of traditional payment systems.” With banks and payments systems like Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal, he said, it competes with “very effectively.”

Facebook’s crypto is, in fact, challenge these as it’s “better at manipulating the dopamine receptors of its users and surveilling them to determine what preferences they have.” He stated:

They're going to threaten the banks with that. They're going to threaten the banks because they start with 2 billion users, but they won’t threaten cryptocurrency, because the applications are completely different.

Personal freedom, the author concluded, isn’t going to be given to users by Facebook. The company won’t also provide them with access to the financial system, as it’s a system made for those who are already included in it.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, on the other hand, are going to help bank the unbanked and give people financial privacy. The flagship cryptocurrency lets users transact without fearing governments may freeze their bank accounts, and without fearing their transaction may be censored.