‘Cryptojacking’ surges 659% with Bitcoin’s price climbing

‘Cryptojacking’ surges 659% with Bitcoin’s price climbing
Cryptojackers are transforming computers into unwitting Bitcoin mining rigs and making profits. Credit: Andrés Tapia
  • Bitcoin has rallied to an all-time high.
  • The increase in crypto prices has attracted cyber criminals, who netted $1.7 billion from crypto heists in 2023.
  • A new attack method, dubbed "cryptojacking," has become popular.

Crypto prices are surging, and cybercriminals are making the most of it.

Some of the hackers are carrying out their attacks in a new way called “cryptojacking.”

That’s when a hacker takes control of an individual’s computer and turns it into a crypto mining machine in order to mint new Bitcoin or another kind of cryptocurrency. With prices soaring, that’s become more lucrative than it was before.

Bitcoin soaring

Bitcoin reached a high of $69,000 in November 2021 before it crashed to just above $16,000 in 2022. The leading cryptocurrency has rallied back to set a new high, with some experts calling for it to go much higher.

And with the price up so much, it’s open season for hackers, according to Ari Redbord, global head of policy at blockchain intelligence firm TRM Labs.

”With the bull market and over $100 billion locked in DeFi today, we are likely going to see more attacks,” Redbord told DL News in an email Wednesday. (Redbord is also a contributing writer at DL News.)

Hackers netted $1.7 billion in stolen funds in 2023, about half of the previous year’s, mostly because of lower crypto prices and less liquidity on DeFi platforms. Despite the smaller returns, the number of major hacks in 2023 stayed roughly the same at 160.

Cryptojacking surges

According to its annual cyber threat report, cybersecurity firm SonicWall reported one billion cryptojacking attacks in 2023 — an increase of 659% from 2022.

Join the community to get our latest stories and updates

North America and Europe were particularly hard hit, with increases of 596% and 1,046%.

SonicWall 2023 cryptojacking graph

Cryptojacking attacks occur when hackers turn victims’ computers into crypto mining rigs without the victims’ knowledge. According to SonicWall, hackers use malware, phishing attacks, and several other vectors to access vulnerable systems.

Cryptojacking uses processing power, affecting the performance of the victims’ computers and generating big electricity bills because of crypto mining’s notoriously high energy consumption.

Once cryptojackers mine their crypto, it’s indistinguishable from legitimately mined crypto.

Last June, Bobby Cornwell, vice president of strategic partner and enablement at SonicWall, told DL News that this makes it “almost impossible” to measure the amount generated by cryptojackers.

Authorities’ reaction to cryptojacking has been slow, but in January, Ukrainian police, aided by Europol, executed the first high-profile arrest of an alleged cryptojacker. Authorities believe he illicitly mined $2 million worth of cryptocurrencies.

Redbord points to more progress in what he refers to as the “cat-and-mouse game” between lawmakers and cybercriminals, saying the industry will benefit from “better cyber controls in place and the ability of law enforcement to track and trace hacked and stolen funds” in 2024.

Tyler Pearson is a Junior Markets Correspondent at DL News. He is based out of Alberta, Canada. Got a hot tip? Reach out to him at ty@dlnews.com.