The increase in the value of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has sparked a renewed interest in miners, which are malicious programmes designed by cybercriminals to steal cryptocurrency from infected devices.
This is according to a Q1 2021 malware report by cybersecurity firm Kaspersky, which showed that the number of unique modifications of miners by cybercriminals targeting cryptocurrencies more than quadrupled from 3,815 to 16,934, with a total of 23,894 newly discovered modifications of miners in the period.
Miners are often installed without users’ knowledge and then begin slowly siphoning off various types of cryptocoins and in some cases the miners walk away with millions, says Kaspersky.
While miners became a popular tool in cybercriminals’ arsenals beginning in 2018, their popularity had steadily declined over the course of 2020.
The number of users that encountered miners on their devices steadily increased from 187,746 in January to 200,045 users in March 2021. In total, Kaspersky says 432,171 unique users encountered miners.
“It’s too early to say for sure if the trend we’ve noted in Q1 2021 is here to stay. If the crypto markets remains strong this year, it’s like we’ll continue to see more instances of users encountering miners,” said Evgeny Lopatin, security expert at Kaspersky.
Other notable trends from the report include a decrease in the number of users encountering both mobile and PC banking Trojans and an increase in the number of modifications of ransomware Trojans—from 3,096 in Q4 2020 to 4,354 in Q1 2021.
You can read the full report on Securelist.