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Over 4 percent of all Monero was mined by malware botnets



An estimated 4.32 percent of all the Monero cryptocurrency currently in circulation has been mined by botnets and cyber-criminal operations, according to a study published earlier this month by academics in Spain and the UK.

The research was one of the biggest undertakings of its kind in recent years. Scientists analyzed around 4.4 million malware samples to identify one million malware strains that mined cryptocurrency on infected hosts.

The malware strains they analyzed spanned a period of a whopping twelve years, between 2007 and 2018.

The research team says it looked at IOCs (indicators of compromise) and used static and dynamic analysis techniques to extract information from malware strains, such as cryptocurrency addresses and mining pools that malware strains used in the past to collect and funnel money through.

Researchers used the data they collected to track down past payments from mining pools to the groups behind each wallet. Further, the also organized the malware strains in campaigns based on similarities and shared cryptocurrency addresses.

According to the study’s findings, while some groups mined various cryptocurrencies in the late 2000s and early 2010s, Monero (XMR) is by far the most popular cryptocurrency among cyber-criminals in underground economies, at the current time.

Excluding the earnings of groups that mined Monero using rogue JavaScript code loaded in users’ browsers (a technique called cryptojacking), researchers say that crypto-mining malware botnets have been responsible for mining 4.32 percent of all Monero coins.

“Although this depends on when criminals cash-out their earnings, we estimate that the total revenue accounts for nearly [$57 million],” researchers said in their paper.

Some criminal groups have been more efficient than others. Researchers say that the groups who rented malware and third-party server infrastructure on underground marketplaces were usually more successful than the vast majority of groups who built their own tools.

However, overall, regardless if they rented the malware or built it themselves, the most successful groups were the ones who used botnets to deploy their malware at scale.

The report mentions previously well-known Monero-mining campaigns such as Adylkuzz and Smominru, but researchers also said they uncovered new groups, with the biggest being one they called Freebuf and one called USA-138.

Monero miners groups

Image: Pastrana et al.

One group, in particular, made over $18 million worth of Monero, which would round up to roughly 1.45 percent of all Monero coins.

Some of these groups existed for small periods of time, but others updated their infrastructure and malware cosntantly, still being active to this day. Researchers say crooks usually modified their code when their XMR addresses got banned from certain mining pools, or when they needed to update the malware to apply mining protocol changes.

When researchers looked at what mining pool criminal groups preferred to handle mining operations and withdrawals to their private addresses, by far the number one choice was, responsible for cashing out $47 million of the $57 million the researchers managed to track.

Monero miner pools

Image: Pastrana et al.

While researchers saw some criminal groups put efforts into mining other cryptocurrencies in past years, Monero is now the preferred cryptocurrencies for almost all crypto-mining operations.

The reason isn’t hard to guess, as mining Bitcoin-based cryptocurrencies have now a higher mining difficulty and also need special hardware, which makes deploying malware mining these types of currencies on regular PCs both useless and unprofitable.

A last conclusion of this research paper, but not the least interesting, is that most of today’s criminal mining operations rely on the open source tool named xmrig, around which most crooks have built their crypto-mining malware around.

While researchers saw more malware samples built around the Claymore mining software, most of the active malware campaigns they tracked used a xmrig-based malware strain.

This statistics can be explained by the somewhat experimental nature of Bitcoin-based crypto-mining malware strain in the late 2000s when malware authors toyed around with Bitcoin mining malware but never deployed it in the types of large scale campaigns we’ve seen Monero miners deployed in the past two years.

Monero mining tools

Image: Pastrana et al.

For more details about the cryptocurrency mining malware scene, please refer to the researcher paper entitled “A First Look at the Crypto-Mining Malware Ecosystem: A Decade of Unrestricted Wealth,” authored by researchers from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and King’s College London.

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Key Criteria for Evaluating Unified Endpoint Management



Endpoint management is one of the most significant challenges in the enterprise today. An increasingly large percentage of our workforce is distributed and demands flexibility to work wherever they want, whenever they want. We must respond by giving them access to the services they require to do their jobs effectively. The alternative is that we, as a business, will suffer, lose good people, and become less competitive. However, we must achieve this essential access while maintaining security and control of our business’s data assets.

An appropriate endpoint management strategy is key to addressing these issues. Our approach should be holistic and unified, bringing together control of devices, management of applications, security of data, and access controls.

Unified endpoint management (UEM) is the approach to meeting this challenge. It has evolved from traditionally disparate solutions for endpoint management, application delivery, and security into a single platform. This single platform delivers a consistent end-user experience across all devices, applications, and locations while maintaining security and control of data assets. The leading solutions allow us to enroll devices easily into our control, provide support, and ensure constituency and compliance while managing access to our applications and data.

This GigaOM Key Criteria Report describes UEM solutions and identifies key criteria and evaluation metrics for selecting such a solution. The corresponding GigaOm Radar Report identifies vendors and products that excel in this sector. Together, these reports give decision-makers an overview of the market to help them evaluate existing platforms and decide where to invest.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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Data Storage for Ever Changing Business Needs



Join GigaOm analyst Enrico Signoretti and CTERA CTO Aron Brand in this one-hour live webinar as they explore file storage trends and dynamics through the lens of IT infrastructure modernization projects.

The file and cloud experts will discuss the limitations of traditional NAS architectures in today’s corporate environments and how organizations are implementing distributed cloud file storage to solve remote collaboration, ransomware protection, and unstructured data growth challenges.

Signoretti and Brand will also examine the recently published GigaOm Radar for Distributed Cloud File Storage, in which CTERA was named the leader. They will review the report’s key criteria and evaluation metrics for choosing a distributed cloud file storage platform, helping IT leaders to understand which vendors are most aligned to their needs today as well as 12-18 months down the road.

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High Performance Application Security Testing – Cloud WAF Security Platforms



This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research features analyst Jake Dolezal and will focus on comparing Web Application Firewall (WAF) security platforms in an enterprise with high performance needs.

This webinar will discuss web application security mechanisms deployed in the cloud. The cloud enables enterprises to differentiate and innovate with microservices at a rapid pace. However, the cloud is just as vulnerable, if not more so, to attacks and breaches as on-premises APIs and apps are. Our focus is specifically on approaches to securing apps, APIs, and microservices that are tuned for high performance and availability. We define “high performance” as companies that experience workloads of more than 1,000 transactions per second (tps) and require a maximum latency below 30 milliseconds across the landscape.

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