Malware threat from cryptocurrency boom

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PERSONAL computer (PC) users should be vigilant against cybercriminals amid a growing cryptocurrency market, a top cybersecurity firm said.

In a statement on Wednesday, Kaspersky Lab said its researchers had identified a new cyber threat wherein attackers used pirated software, such as photo and text editors, to hijack PCs for the purpose of mining cryptocurrencies.

“While the cryptocurrency market continues to burst with enormous increases in the number and value of investments, more and more criminals are also keeping an eye on its development. The fact that this excitement has captured so many people plays into their hands, making it easier to cheat general users who are not IT-savvy individuals,” it said.

Cryptocurrency is a form of digital money used to promote efficient money transfers.


“Criminals are using different tools and techniques, such as social engineering campaigns, or by exploiting cracked software, to affect as many PCs as possible,” Kaspersky said.

It explained that attackers were copying domain names of real entities to catch users’ attention. Once the software is downloaded, the user receives an archive that also contains a mining program.

Alexander Kolesnikov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab, said this act of illegal cryptocurrency mining “reduces the device’s system performance, which inevitably affects the user experience in general”.

“Plus it increases the victim’s electricity bill — not a major outcome of being a victim of this fraud scheme, but still an unpleasant one,” he added.

Kaspersky said that users should download software only from proven sources and install a reliable security solution to protect their PCs from cyberthreats.

The country’s monetary authority, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), earlier this year released Circular 944 thatprovides rules and regulations concerning virtual currency exchanges versus money laundering and terrorist financing.

“We have actually allowed the use of cryptocurrency in remittance services, but we also impose obligations to fulfill anti-money laundering commitments,” BSP Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. told reporters in October.

Espenilla said the Philippines acknowledged this innovation to increase financial inclusion and to improve the financial system.

“We also realize pragmatically that even as we talk, it grows whether or not we like it. So rather than prohibit something that is very hard to prohibit anyway, we chose to engage and the industry has accepted that engagement to the BSP,” he said.

The central bank’s latest data show that the monthly average transaction values in bitcoin surged from $2 million in 2015 to $6 million this year.

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