Cryptocurrency has been in the news a great deal lately. The interest in Bitcoin and other forms of digital currency has sparked a great deal of interest and debate – to invest or not to invest seems to be the prevailing question.
But it is not a perfect nirvana, and there are still a few wrinkles that need to be ironed out regarding cryptocurrency as a whole. That said, recently there has been a large number of reports regarding cryptocurrency related hacks and scams. Most recently, fingers have pointed to a malicious threat actor known as The Lazarus Group and another, a scam involving a cryptocurrency startup.

“The technology behind cryptocurrencies and their use is incredibly practical. Part of the problem however, is that cryptocurrencies are unregulated and with all the attention currencies like Bitcoin get, it’s no surprise that cybercriminals and scammers have seen this as an opportunity to target individuals who want to get in on the trend,” says Indi Siriniwasa, vice-president: sub-Saharan Africa region at Trend Micro.

Cybercriminals, just like criminals in the physical world, follow the money. Right now, the money is to be found in investments in cryptocurrency. It is believed that the Lazarus Group is behind the attacks some Bitcoin owners have experienced as the modus operandi is strikingly similar to other Lazarus attacks.

A phishing email is made to look as though it is from a recruitment agent with a Dropbox link. The link contains a document with a fake job offer, which in turn leads to a Visual Basic implant. The implant scans for Bitcoin activity, and if detected, a second implant is dropped – this time to gather long-term data over a protracted period of time.

“Right now we don’t know how widespread these cryptocurrency attacks are, or which regions are most affected. If this is the work of Lazarus, and going on previous experience with the group, it is most likely that they are continuously evolving the tools they use, and it’s clear from previous activity that it is not limited in reach or scope and the Bitcoin attacks may well fall in this remit,” Siriniwasa explains.

And the second cryptocurrency issue? A straight forward money scam with a digital twist. Quite a few cryptocurrency start-ups have emerged to capitalise on the fad. A startup, LoopX, raised around $4,5-million in Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). ICOS are an unregulated means of crowdfunding to raise capital for the startup and investors were promised that they would earn large amounts in return.

The company had a legitimate website and Facebook page and promised investors a revolutionary, advanced algorithm, only available to LoopX. As suddenly as it had emerged, LoopX was gone, the website was closed and the Facebook page no longer accessible – just like the money the scammers took with them.

“What we can learn from this is that we need to be cautious with cryptocurrencies and investments. The tricky thing is that there are as many different attack methods as there are types of cryptocurrency. Vigilance is of the greatest importance in situations like these,” Sirinawasa warns.

Cryptocurrency miners work behind the scenes, often set up in botnets in order to ‘mine’ currency. Social media is often used as a means to fish for cryptocurrency donations and some attackers hijack cryptocurrency websites in order to redirect them to web domains that may contain malware. There are so many pitfalls to be aware of which makes it all the more important to be informed before considering investing.

“There is nothing wrong with investing your money with cryptocurrencies. However, it is important that you look at it from all angles, exercise due diligence, and apply some cautious and rational thought before stepping into an investment,” Siriniwasa advises.