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Cryptojacking attacks, in which hackers steal processor power from victims to generate cryptic currency, increased by 450 percent last year. This is shown by new research from IBM X-Force, the research bureau of IBM. Ransomware attacks actually decreased in 2018.

Wendi Whitmore, the head of the IBM X-Force Incident Response and Intelligence Services (IRIS) team, tells SecurityIntelligence that ransomware has been very successful for years, but that it is now starting to decline. “It seems that, for various reasons, cybercriminals are making less money out of ransomware attacks, and may be making more money out of cryptojacking.

Cryptojacking consists of infecting a victim’s computer with malware, or via browser-based injection attacks. The malware uses the processor power of an acquired computer to mine cryptographic currency. Because the CPU is used for this purpose, systems become slow.

Although this form of cybercrime is less destructive than ransomware, the presence of the malware in an enterprise environment is a cause for concern, because it indicates that there is a vulnerability that could possibly be used in other attacks as well.

Other attacks

There are also attacks that do not use any malware at all. This was the case with 57 percent of the cyber attacks that X-Force IRIS saw in 2018. Many of these attacks used non-malicious tools, such as PowerShell, PsExec and other legitimate administrative tools. As a result, attackers may be able to stay in IT environments for longer. Cybercriminals may then be able to steal passwords, run queries, search databases, and more.

According to Whitmore, these are difficult attacks to detect because they use tools that are built into the environment, and they cannot be identified by signatures or typical techniques to detect malware. Instead, security teams must detect malicious commands, communications, and other actions that may resemble legitimate business processes.

Attackers infiltrate IT environments with covert techniques that target system misconfigurations and other vulnerabilities. Also, methods such as phishing are still difficult to prevent. Disclosed security incidents related to misconfigurations increased by 20 percent last year.


However, people remain one of the biggest security weaknesses, according to IBM X-Force. Of the attacks that Big Blue analyzed, 29 percent were related to phishing problems. Of these phishing attempts, 45 percent were business email compromise (BEC) scams, or better known as CEO fraud.

Attackers focus on people who are responsible for making payments from business accounts. The criminals claim to be someone within the organisation, for example the CEO or CFO.

This news article was automatically translated from Dutch to give Techzine.eu a head start. All news articles after September 1, 2019 are written in native English and NOT translated. All our background stories are written in native English as well. For more information read our launch article.