Hijacking computers to illegally mine cryptocurrencies has overtaken ransomware as the biggest cyber threat in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa, according to Kaspersky Lab.
Research by the Russian cyber-security firm shows crypto mining attacks have risen almost fourfold in the region, from 3.5 million in 2017 to 13 million this year. Such incidents are likely to continue given the increased use of digital currencies, Kaspersky said.
Cyber criminals can use malware to gain access to other people’s computers and start running mining operations undetected in the background, keeping any digital coins produced. Earlier this year, criminals commandeered massive processing power to unlock new Monero coins, and in the process unleashed an epidemic of malicious software.
“The META region is becoming more appealing to cyber-criminals, with financial and malicious cryptomining attacks taking center stage,” said Fabio Assolini, Kaspersky’s senior security researcher. Such crimes are increasing because “mining is silent and causes less impact that ransomware, making it less noticeable.”
Kaspersky is itself not without controversy. Last year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security banned use of its software by federal agencies amid concerns about the company’s links to the Russian government. Kaspersky challenged the ruling. A company official wasn’t immediately available to comment today.