Cryptocurrency mining malware is on pace to infect more than 2 million computers in 2017, according to a new analysis of telemetry data from Kaspersky Labs.
The report, which was published by technical support site Bleeping Computer, says that more than 1.65 million computers became infected with cryptocurrency mining malware during the first nine months of the year.
According to data from Kaspersky Labs, the number of infected computers has increased significantly every year. In 2013–when bitcoin first gained sustained mainstream media attention–only 205,000 computers were infected. The number continued to climb in subsequent years, even as the crypto market cap waned. Last year, these cyber attacks reached an all-time high of 1.8 million as the markets began a sustained advance. If the current pace continues, more than 2.3 million computers will have been infected by the end of the year.
Cyberattackers rely on vast networks of computers–known as botnets–that they are able to control without the owners’ knowledge. They often run the mining software in the background, leaving computer owners with little indication that their computers have been infected, other than a decrease in performance.
One high-profile malware attack infected Linux-based servers that were placed online without password protection, while another attack–concentrated in Poland–mined bitcoin using the processors in victims’ computers. Earlier this year, researchers discovered a mining botnet that included hundreds of thousands of Windows computers.
The report states that Monero and Zcash are attackers’ cryptocurrencies of choice. This should not be surprising, since both coins offer users anonymous transactions, and privacy is key if one wishes to discretely sell his ill-gotten coins on an exchange.
Of course, the rise in cryptocurrency cybercrime is not limited to mining malware. A recent report from blockchain-tracing firm Chainalysis revealed that from June to August of this year, cybercriminals netted more than $125 million in Ethereum-related attacks alone. The majority of these attacks are deployed through phishing scams, although exploits comprise a significant minority.