It’s no secret that cryptocurrency is by no means out of the woods with regard to being perfectly secure. Its youth and the rate at which it is evolving inevitably mean that security challenges will remain at the forefront of the trend for many years to come.
However, it seems that even more must be done, sooner, in order to protect the viability of Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency concept.
Last month, researchers from Dell SecureWorks released the alarming yet predictable news that as the value of Bitcoin soared during 2013, so did the number of malware programs used for criminal activity against the system and its users.
The main example being Mt. Gox’s demise, of course, points to the fact that rather than cryptocurrencies being ill-equipped to deal with the various threats, their commercial entities and users require further education. Dell SecureWorks’ Joe Stewart notes:
“The problem is that most people are unprepared. […] With bitcoins and altcoins, you’re essentially acting as your own bank”.
Perhaps the figures from a 2013 study by South African Internet security solutions firm Kapersky Lab will speak for themselves.
Kapersky’s software protected 3.8 million users against a host of financial attacks. While these were not all related to Bitcoin, Kapersky notes that the 18.6% increase on 2012 that this figure represents is due to the sharp rise of malware specifically targeting the currency.
"Last year saw a significant increase in the proportion of financial cyber threats, with malware designed to steal money playing a key role,” Sergey Lozhkin, Kapersky’s Senior Security Researcher, said.
We are also witnessing a change in sophistication of attacks, the company notes, with hackers now favouring malware capable of performing a range of actions over specialized programs such as keystroke loggers.
“The current situation has forced users and financial institutions to take active measures against online threats, while security software vendors have to develop new protection solutions,” adds Lozhkin.
The Internet community is now inundated with means of conducting malicious attacks online, from self-installing malware for PCs to the 330 million phishing attacks blocked by Kapersky’s software last year.
IN the context of Bitcoin, there has been huge activity in the rise of mobile device malware, mostly targeting Android users.
ANDROIDOS_KAGECOIN.HBT, detected in several apps and potentially already infecting thousands of users, mines bitcoins while the Android device is recharging, sapping processor power and increasing battery strain.
It’s not all bad news, though, as such attacks could ironically be too many steps ahead of the market to be successful. Veo Zhang, mobile threats analyst at Trend Micro, writes:
“Clever as the attack is, whoever carried it out may not have thought things through. Phones do not have sufficient performance to serve as effective miners. […] Yes, [hackers] can gain money this way, but at a glacial pace.”