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Cryptocurrencies being targeted by online crime

(Image credit: Image Credit: Welcomia / Shutterstock)

With the rise in popularity of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies (opens in new tab), hackers have begun to target individuals and businesses using a number of tactics according to a new report from cybersecurity firm Digital Shadows. 

Over the last two years, interest in cryptocurrency has expanded beyond enthusiasts and now digital currencies are seen as investment opportunity by many.  Cybercriminals have capitalised on the popularity of Bitcoin and other coins using a number of tactics including 'crypto jacking,' account takeovers, mining fraud and scams surrounding initial coin offerings (opens in new tab) (ICOs). 

Crypto jacking for instance involves taking over another computer's browser to utilise its CPU to mine against the user's will.  The software used by hackers to accomplish this feat has even grown so advanced that they can now clone popular websites to trick users into giving up their system's resources. 

Digital Shadows also highlighted how botnets (opens in new tab) comprised of both PCs and mobile devices are once again being used to mine cryptocurrency.  They were first used to do so back in 2014 but were not profitable at the time.  Now thanks to coins such as Monero which are easier to mine, botnets can be rented online for as low as $40. 

ICOs are also popular with hackers due to the amount of funds invested into them by users.  Instead of selling fake tokens though, cybercriminals prefer to target legitimate currencies by directly stealing funds from an ICO or through price manipulation using “pump and dump” schemes. 

The company's vice president Rick Holland explained why cybercriminals have begun to exploit the growing interest in digital currencies worldwide, saying:

“Cybercriminals follow the money and right now they see in the unregulated and largely unsecure world of digital currencies a huge opportunity to target people, businesses and exchanges and make money quickly and easily.” 

While investing in cryptocurrencies (opens in new tab) can be quite profitable if done securely with the right prior knowledge, users should ensure the security of their devices is top notch as well their understanding of each particular coin before investing heavily. 

Image Credit: Welcomia / Shutterstock

Anthony Spadafora
Anthony Spadafora

After getting his start at ITProPortal and then working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches to how to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.