Last year, you couldn’t move for ransomware stories, and we all know why: a ransomware attack really, really hurts.
It’s fast, it’s brutal, and it’s instantly disruptive – ransomware isn’t like other malware attacks that try to lie low and avoid the limelight.
And ransomware can be expensive to fix: even if you have a backup/restore process that is slick and efficient, it’s still more hassle to follow that process than just to keep working normally.
Indeed, ransomware can be more than expensive – it can be ethically challenging, too, forcing you to make a hard choice of whether to cave in and do a deal with the crooks in the hope of getting your business moving freely again.
But there’s a new kid on the malware block in 2018: cryptomining.
Cryptomining malware is when crooks covertly infect your computer with software to do the calculations needed to generate cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, Monero or Ethereum; the crooks keep any cryptocoin proceeds for themselves.
They do this because, to make any real money with coinmining, you need a lot of electricity to deliver a lot processing power on a lot of computers.
So you can either rent space in a giant coinmining server farm, for example in Iceland, where electricity is cheap and the weather is cold enough to stop your computers melting down…
….or you can steal other people’s electricity, processing power and air conditioning by using malware to sneak cryptominers into their networks, their browsers, their coffee shops, and more.
Where’s the harm in that?
If you get infected with a cryptominer, all your data is still there, and you can still access it, so cryptomining sounds like small beer compared to ransomware.
However, your computer will probably be annoyingly slow, your laptop fans will be roaring all the time, and your battery life will be hopeless.
On a mobile device, all those side effects are much more of an issue, because short battery life means outages when your phone goes flat, and the battery overheating associated with continuous super-heavy processor usage could cause permanent damage.
Ironically, a lot of coinmining software advises you not to bother running it on mobile phones: the computing power of your mobile just isn’t sufficient for decent results, so the costs outweigh the benefits.
But why would crooks care about that, when they didn’t ask for permission in the first place, and when you’re paying the costs while they reap the benefits?
Well, the crooks don’t care, and SophosLabs has just published a technical report that will show you just how much these crooks don’t care.
The report also gives you a fascinating insight into just how much effort cybercriminals are willing to put into getting their cryptomining code accepted into the Android Play Store, and thus to have it “blessed” with Google’s imprimatur.