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.

Bitcoin's Current Market Cycle Will Last Until May 2020, Blockchain Think Tank Claims

A blockchain-focused think tank, the DD Think Tank, has recently suggested that Bitcoin’s current market cycle could last until May 2020, after analyzing over “100,000 pieces of data of the global cryptocurrency industry.”

According to ChainDD’s 2018-2019 Cryptocurrency Market Annual Report, the cryptocurrency ecosystem is set to keep on developing in the near future, but the market will only turn bullish after Bitcoin’s halving event in 2020, when the amount of new BTC introduced into the market drops from 12.5 BTC per block to 6.25.

In its in-depth analysis, ChanDD’s DD Think Tank noted that as of January 9 of this year, there were 2,091 cryptocurrencies in the market, which lost over 87.7% of its value since its highs in late 2017.

The cryptocurrency that dropped the most during the bear market, it reads, was Bitcoin Cash (BCH) which dropped by 97.3% from its all-time high. For comparison, BTC dropped 81.5% from its all-time high.

The report adds that initial coin offerings (ICOs) in the market kept on growing significantly and launching new tokens into the market. In early 2017 there were 691 cryptos, and by the end of the year there 1,355. In 2018, these saw their numbers drop significantly.

Bitcoin’s price drop from over $6,000 to little over $3,200 came in November of last year, and DD Think Tank explains it occurred over “harsh overall economic conditions,” and over lacking investor confidence in the cryptocurrency market.

The think tank added that it believes in 2019 the bubble still present in the market will disappear, although the current cycle is only changing in 2020. The report reads:

The market will return to its value starting point. This cycle will last till May 2020 and the BTC reward will decrease from 12.5 to 6.25.

By then, the organization added, BTC’s price rise will lead to an “explosive advancement of blockchain 3.0,” which will be based off of “integration of real economy and commercial scenarios.”

In its report, DD Think Tank further noted that in 2013 BTC went through a bear market similar to the one seen last year, as it fell from a $1,150 high to $176 in a short amount of time,and only surpassed the $1,000 mark again in 2017, years later.

Investors Turned to BTC During The Bear Market

In a follow-up post ChainDD’s blockchain think tank went into the different price fluctuations of the top cryptocurrencies, and found that investors greatly reduced their exposure to altcoins during last year’s bear market, and moved back to BTC.

It notes that before prices started plunging BTC’s market share of the cryptocurrency ecosystem was between 34-38%, but noted it kept on rising throughout the year, to peak at 53%.

Bitcoin's dominance compared to the crypto market's capitlaizationBitcoin's dominance compared to the crypto market's capitlaization

The flagship cryptocurrency kept on being recognized by investors, while privacy-centric tokens lost part of their market share. This could presumably be explained by the shutdown of dark web marketplaces like AlphaBay and Hansa.

The organization believes the top 30 cryptocurrencies will stay on the top in the near future, but noted that while some claimed to be able to solve fundamental blockchain-related problems – such as low transactions per second – these haven’t been solved.

In fact, DD Think Tank notes punchlines that saw cryptos claim to process “millions of TPS [transactions per second],” and “overtaking Ethereum” seemingly disappeared near the end of 2018.

Gaming, Gambling Dapps Dominate The Market

Gaming and gambling-related decentralized applications (Dapps), it found, dominate the Dapp market as a whole. By the end of last year, 1,609 Dapps existed in total, and 1,324 of these were based on the Ethereum blockchain.

Once EOS was launched, researchers noted a steady increase in the number of Dapps in its blockchain, that managed to reach 228 by December 31, 2018. TRON’s blockchain saw 57 at about the same time.

EOS' Dapps seemingly surged right after the blockchain launched

Together, gaming (26%) and gambling (29%) Dapps accounted for over 50% of the market, with other popular categories including financial and “high-risk” platforms. These high-risk platforms are either faulty, insecure ones or those suspected to be Ponzi schemes – they accounted for 20% of all Dapps.

Outside of the top platform in each category, most Dapps had less than 100 active users per day, even though “phenomenal games have appeared with relatively short life cycles.”

As CryptoGlobe covered, ChainDD’s Think Tank has recently revealed that six cryptocurrency mining pools were in control of 75% of bitcoin’s hashrate earlier this year.