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Two people charged with mining crypto on Russian state computers

By Marianne Curphey

Malware installed on hardware allegedly enabled the illicit use of huge amounts of processing power

Two Russian citizens are being prosecuted for allegedly targeting computers at state organisations to illicitly mine cryptocurrency.

According to a report in Cointelegraph, the two unnamed individuals were said to have infected the hardware with a program that mines cryptocurrency via a web browser.

One of the Russians was said to have created an extensive botnet to infect computers across various regions of the country. The second allegedly targeted his mining operations on hardware at the state water utility.

Mining can use up to 80 per cent of targets’ processing power. Criminals are therefore always looking for alternative sources of power and often innocent businesses only become aware of the problem when they receive a huge electricity bill. Harnessing a computer’s processing power to mine for cryptocurrencies without the owner’s consent or knowledge is known as cryptojacking.

In a statement delivered at a press conference on December 16, Nikolay Murashov — Deputy Director of Russia’s National Coordination Center for Computer Incidents — noted that “up to 80 per cent of the computer’s free power can be used to generate virtual coins, and a legitimate user may not even know about it."

He said this illicit use of processing power can adversely impact business operations and damage companies’ performance, warning organisations to implement adequate cybersecurity measures.

While the attack was in Russia, the threat of criminals using processing power to mine crypto currencies is on the rise, and all businesses are vulnerable to cyber attacks, says Samuel Leach, Director – Samuel & Co Trading, in the UK.

“A new form of malware called crypto jacking involves cyber criminals exploiting the processing capacity of infected computers for crypto mining,” he said. “It is becoming clear that avoiding a cybersecurity breach is temporary and that companies of all sizes now need to consider purchasing cyber insurance as this will cover the potentially large cost of dealing with the damage that has happened, including the consequences of data theft and downtime.”

FURTHER READING: China increases domination of Bitcoin mining

FURTHER READING: 16 unlikely cryptocurrency predictions for 2020

FURTHER READING: A simple guide to mining or buying Litecoin

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