According to one new study, Monero or XMR, the crypto mining malware, took over from ransomware, as well as other forms of malware in 2018, is now considered the most popular crypto among criminals deploying mining malware.

Monero – the coin of choice of crypto criminals

It is actually not a surprise that Monero is still the coin of choice for crypto criminals that look to pilfer resources from the unsuspecting masses.

Sergio Pastrana and Guillermo Suarez-Tangil, who are two kinds of research from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and King’s College London, published their report during the last week, reporting that hackers have mined almost 4.32% of the total XMR in circulation.

The two researchers stated that they estimated there are at least 2,218 active campaigns which accumulated about 720K XMR or 57 million USD. On exciting thing, according to them is that just a single campaign has mined more than 163K CMR or 18 million USD, which actually accounts for 23% of the total estimated. The campaign was still active during that time.

They also stated that their profit analysis revealed campaigns with multi-million earnings, associating more than 4.3% of XMR with illicit mining.

Regular change in the proof of work algorithms will discourage criminals

They, however, are still not sure whether, or what portion, of malware owners have cashed out their crypto, because of the lack of information, as well as the fluctuating prices of cryptocurrencies. At this time, the value of the XMR total cited about $40 million.

The pair also analyzed around 4.4 million malware samples over the 12 years starting in 2007, and they identified over a million malware crypto miners. The paper cited a low cost and high return as it was the primary success of illicit crypto mining.

The paper also added that regular change in the proof of work algorithms could actually discourage criminals, because of the constant need to upgrade mining software.

The study has revealed that a common approach to disseminating the malicious software has been to utilize legitimate infrastructure like Dropbox or GitHub. Rogue mining tools, as well as online services, have also been prevalent.

Bitcoin – the second favorite crypto for illicit mining

After Monero, which the two researchers consider as the most prevalent, Bitcoin came in at second preferred crypto for illegal mining, but its popularity decreased over the years.

Bad actors also experimented with some other altcoins like Dogecoin or Litecoin during the year 2013 and 2014, and after that shifted back to Bitcoin and XMR, and the possibility for that can be as these were more profitable, according to the suggestions of the researchers.

Of the malware connected wallets which were identified by the team, Monero has been 56% more represented than Bitcoin, while ZCash came in the third place.

During the last year only, there was a 4000% increase in mining malware with the majority flowing into Monero. Even in the midst of a prolonged bear market illicit crypto mining and browser hijacking are still evolving to evade detection and botnets are primed to take off once again. Monero is said that it will be down 88% from its ATH, but that has not deterred cyber criminals one bit.


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