HomeCryptocurrencyCrypto miners on the rise: Kaspersky experts report more than 230% growth...

Crypto miners on the rise: Kaspersky experts report more than 230% growth in the number of malicious mining programs

With the beginning of the “crypto winter of 2022”, when the value of cryptocurrencies dropped significantly, the cryptocurrency industry is facing a liquidity crisis. Despite that, criminal activity targeting the cryptocurrency industry does not seem to be slowing down, according to Kaspersky’s new research paper ‘The state of cryptojacking in 2022’.

Cryptocurrency mining is a painstaking and costly process, but very a rewarding one at the same time – hence, it attracts cybercriminals’ interest. Making money using crypto miners is profitable for cybercriminals – they don’t pay for equipment, or for electricity, which is rather expensive in 2022. They install mining software on the victim’s computer to use its processing power without the user’s consent. It does not require much specialist technical expertise. In fact, all the attacker needs to know is how to create a miner using open-source code, or where to buy one. If the cryptomining malware is installed successfully on the victim’s computer, it provides its operator with steady earnings.

In fact, 2022 saw a sharp increase in the number of new modifications to malicious mining programs. During the first three quarters of 2022, the expert analysis identified 215 843 new miners, more than twice as many as last year

Q1 2021 23 894
Q2 2021 31 443
Q3 2021 46 097
Q1 2022 21 282
Q2 2022 40 788
Q3 2022 153 773

The number of new miner modifications, Q1 – Q3, 2021 and 2022

Notably, this increase is only due to a sharp jump in the 3rd quarter of 2022. Compared to Q3 2021, the growth was over 230%. Thus, in Q3 2022, the number of new malicious miners exceeded 150,000.

Most of the analyzed samples of malicious mining software (48%) secretly mine Monero (XMR) currency via the victim’s computer. This currency is known for its advanced technologies that anonymize transaction data to achieve maximum privacy. Those monitoring it cannot decipher addresses trading Monero, transaction amounts, balances, or transaction histories – all these factors are extremely appealing to cybercriminals.

Regarding the world’s most widely used cryptocurrency, Bitcoin wallets that were used in illicit mining accumulated around 1.5K USD on average in Bitcoin every month. The company’s researchers recorded an incoming transaction of 2 BTC, which is more than $40,500, per one analyzed wallet.

Most frequently, attackers distribute miners through malicious files masquerading as pirated content – films, music, games, and software. At the same time, unpatched vulnerabilities pose a serious challenge to users while being an appealing lure for cybercriminals who exploit them to spread to miners. Kaspersky telemetry shows that nearly every 6th vulnerability exploiting attack was accompanied by a miner infection. In Q3 miners became even more widespread than backdoors, which were the prime choice of cybercriminals throughout the first half of 2022.

Q1 2022 % Q2 2022 % Q3 2022 %
backdoor 28,86% backdoor 27,4% ransom 21,2%
ransom 17,01% ransom 17,1% miner  16,5% 
miner  12,20%  miner  13,8%  backdoor 15,6%
downloader 3,00% downloader 1,8% downloader 2,7%

The share of miners among the malware that attackers tried to launch as a result of exploiting vulnerabilities 

‘Although these are not the best days for the cryptocurrency industry, the topic of cryptocurrency has been in the spotlight throughout the year, so it’s not surprising that malicious actors would want to profit from these trends. The silver lining is that while the number of threats is rising, there are no dramatic changes in the number of users that encounter miners. That is why it is extremely important to raise awareness about the first signs that malware is being downloaded onto your computer. It is also necessary to install a reliable security solution that will prevent attacks at an early stage,’ comments Andrey Ivanov, a security expert at Kaspersky.


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