Bitcoin A Major Target In Financial Malware Attacks

Security firm Kaspersky Lab has found that bitcoin is the target in more than one fifth of all malware attacks aimed at victims’ money. According to Kaspersky’s latest threat report, entitled ‘IT Threat Evolution Q2 2014’, bitcoin mining malware accounted for 14% of attacks in the second quarter of 2014, while bitcoin wallet stealers accounted for 8%.

Keyloggers, which can be used to compromise both bitcoin and banking services, also made the list, with 4% of all attacks attributed to various forms of key logging malware. Traditional banking malware still leads the way with 74%, but considering the size of the bitcoin economy it is clear that bitcoin users and operators face a significant likelihood of being subjected to an attack.

Although the figures are disturbing, the relative number of bitcoin-related malware attacks has actually gone down since Kaspersky’s last annual report. In the 2013 report, bitcoin wallet stealers accounted for 20.18% of all financial malware attacks, while mining malware accounted for 8.91%, giving a combined total of 29%.

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“Fraudsters are also happy to use computing resources to generate crypto currency: bitcoin miners account for 14% of all financial attacks,” the report warns. “Criminals also use keyloggers to collect user credentials for online banking and payment systems in another bid to access bank accounts.”

In the meantime, the number of threats has gone down, but the threat landscape has evolved – as wallet stealers fell out of favour, mining malware took their place as the predominant form of bitcoin-related malware. Several security firms have issued reports mentioning bitcoin malware in recent months, with the number of attacks rising sharply since early 2013 in parallel with bitcoin’s massive peak in popularity.

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Bitcoin has not showed any major signs of slowdown in the past weeks. Malware makers have been experimenting with various forms of bitcoin malware, ranging from programs designed to create elaborate mining botnets, to ransomware like CryptoLocker that uses bitcoin as a form of payment. Fortunately, it did not take long for security firms and the authorities to catch up. Numerous bitcoin mining botnets have been dismantled since late 2013, including CryptoLocker in June.

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