Data shows Bitcoin malware potentially on the decline

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One of the biggest challenges still affecting Bitcoin, and especially its adoption, is the variety of related malware and other types of scams. Even relatively benign malware programs that steal computing power, rather than actual BTC, tarnish the reputation of Bitcoin.

Data compiled by digital security firm Kaspersky Lab, however, suggests that the amount of Bitcoin malware declined in the second quarter of 2015. The information also shows that cryptocurrency could in fact be safer than traditional banking.

Importantly, virus that targets traditional banking services make up the vast majority of all malware, some 83 percent. And while Bitcoin is a popular target for hackers, it is not nearly as popular as traditional banking services. So not only is Bitcoin-related malware on the decline, but compared to the traditional banking software sector, Bitcoin malware is actually a much smaller issue.

Bitcoin-Mining-630x3501Kaspersky Lab has found that the majority of Bitcoin specific malware programs (nine percent of the total) tend to focus on mining, rather than trying to crack wallets and steal coins. The premise for such a scheme is simple: install a malware program that takes over a user’s computer and redirects part of the computing power to mine BTC. The results for users can be disastrous, with computer performance plummeting and electricity bills skyrocketing.

Malware that targets Bitcoin wallets, often in order to steal BTC, accounts for six percent of all cybersecurity threats. While this number may seem small when compared to attacks on traditional banking software, it underscores why wallet security is so important. Once a hacker gains access to a wallet, they could potentially steal all the BTC stored in that wallet.

In total, Bitcoin-related malware currently accounts for 15 percent of all cyber security threats. Although the number is high, it represents a signification decline from the 22 percent registered in the second quarter of 2014. As the Bitcoin community becomes more aware of the threats and issues affecting its favourite cryptocurrency, there is good reason to believe that threats will be reduced.

As for consumers and users, it’s important to keep an eye out for potential scams. Many Bitcoin scams are completely unrelated to cryptocurrency itself. Malware mining scams, for example, don’t necessarily require users to have to use Bitcoin in order to be scammed, as the malware just has to gain partial control over the computer. Then computing power is diverted from the user’s needs and is used to mine Bitcoins. So even if you don’t use cryptocurrency, make sure you keep an eye out for anything suspicious.

If you do trade in Bitcoins then you need to be very careful with your digital wallets. If a hacker is able to gain access to your Bitcoins and steal them, it will be nearly impossible to recover the coins. Bitcoin’s ability to hide the identity of who owns each coin, as well as a lack of any centralized authority, means there is no one to turn to when coins are stolen.

Proper safety measures will help reduce Bitcoin scams, but awareness is still key. If users don’t take security seriously, hackers will have an easy time hacking, and that means Bitcoins will be stolen and computers commandeered. Of course, as the numbers suggest, Bitcoin might still be safer than traditional banking, at least as far as hacking is concerned.

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Brian Booker

An international financial analyst and writer. He has consulted for the Malaysian government, various MNC's, and other organisations. He focuses on currencies, commodities, and emerging South East Asian markets.

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