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.

Ravencoin Vulnerability Allowed Attackers to Increase Total Supply by 1.5%

Attackers have exploited a vulnerability found in Ravencoin, an open-source fork of Bitcoin that launched in 2018, to generate extra RVN tokens “beyond the coinbase of 5000 RVN per block.”

According to a Medium post published by Ravencoin lead developer Tron Black, community members from the CryptoScope team reached out to the Ravencoin team with the findings. Both teams then worked together to stop the exploit from being leaked, and started “code review to detect, isolate, and fix the issue.” The post reads:

A community code submission caused a bug that has been exploited. Law enforcement has been notified and is working with us. The vulnerability does not allow the stealing of RVN or assets that you own and control, but the minting did create RVN that should not exist.

In total, the extra coins that were minted beyond Ravencoin’s total 21 billion supply are the equivalent of 44 days worth of mining, or about 1.5% of the RVN tokens that will ever exist. Black’s suggestion on the post was for the community to absorb the economic cost of the extra tokens, or to move the halving 44 days earlier.

He added the minted RVN tokens were moved to an exchange and traded, and as a result were mixed with other circulating RVN tokens. This means that trying to burn the tokens, even if with community backing, will “cause irreparable harm to innocent victims.”

The burden, Black added, is currently being shared across all RVN holders in proportion to their holdings in the form of inflation. The developer urged users to keep trading to a minimum until a fix is issued. Details on the vulnerability will not be revealed until the fix is implemented.

Featured image by Tyler Quiring on Unsplash.