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.

Ether (ETH) Is a Commodity, Says CFTC Chairman Heath Tarbert

The chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Heath Tarbert, has revealed he sees Ethereum’s ether as a commodity, just like bitcoin.

Tarbert’s words come at the Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit in New York this Thursday, where he stated:

We've been very clear on bitcoin: bitcoin is a commodity. We haven't said anything about ether—until now. It is my view as chairman of the CFTC that ether is a commodity.

He also anticipated the potential launch of ether derivatives on regulated exchanges. As covered, a CFTC insider said earlier this year ether futures could soon be approved by the regulator.

In December of last year the CFTC issued a “Request for Input” (RFI) on ether, the native cryptocurrency of the Ethereum network, looking for “public comment and feedback” to better understand its technology.

During Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit, Tarbert revealed he agrees with guidance from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that detailed bitcoin and ether aren’t securities, and noted the CFTC is working with the SEC on these issues.

Tarbert acknowledged, however, there’s “ambiguity in the market” on the status of various cryptoassets, but believes “similar digital assets should be treated similarly.” Moreover, Tarbert said cryptocurrencies created through forks – like bitcoin cash (BCH) – should be treated by regulators just like the original asset.

If the underlying asset, the original digital asset, hasn’t been determined to be a security and is therefore a commodity, most likely the forked asset will be the same,” Tarbert said, “unless the fork itself raises some securities law issues under that classic Howey Test.

The ”Howey Test” is a test created thanks to a 1946 case involving the sale of shares in a citrus grove that the SEC uses to determine whether an asset is a security. When asked whether he believes the test is still relevant in 2019, he said he thinks “the analysis is pretty good” adding that it ultimately it answers the right questions.

Addressing cryptoasset sold via initial coin offerings (ICOs), Tarbert noted a cryptoasset can start off as a security and eventually become a commodity. He said:

You can have a situation where something in an initial coin offering is a security initially, but over time, it gets more decentralized, and there's a tangible value there, so you can have things that change back and forth.

Notably, the chairman of the CFTC addressed cryptocurrencies created through hard forks and issued via ICOs shortly after the IRS issued cryptocurrency tax guidance for the first time in five years, specifying that cryptos created from a fork are to be handled as “ordinary income equal to the fair market value of the new cryptocurrency when it is received.”

As covered, Tarbert’s words also come on the same day the SEC issued a 112-page order disapproving the proposed rule changed filed by NYSE Arca to list and trade shares of the Bitwise Bitcoin ETF Trust.

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