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Even YouTube Ads Can Now Have Crypto Mining Malware

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Crypto Mining Malware

YouTube ads have now become the latest playground for covert cryptocurrency mining malware. The video sharing website was caught displaying ads that covertly use a visitor’s CPU power to mine cryptocurrencies.

The issue became evident last week after complaints emerged on social media that YouTube ads were causing a red flag on various anti-virus software. The warnings continued even after users changed browsers and appeared limited to when people visited the YouTube site.

Researchers from Trend Micro –  an international cyber security firm –  confirmed on Friday that there was a strong uptick in the use of Coinhive earlier in the week. According to Trend Micro, attackers were exploiting the DoubleClick ad platform by Google to display the mining malware to YouTube visitors in specific countries such as France, Spain, Taiwan, Japan, and Italy.

The ads have a script that mines the anonymous digital currency Monero (XMR). In nine out of ten cases, the ads publicly make use of the JavaScript given by Coinhive. Ten percent of the remaining time, the ads on YouTube use private mining JavaScript that helps save the attackers the Coinhive cut that is at 30 percent. Both scripts have been programmed to utilise 80 percent of a website visitor’s CPU power.

Coinhive is a digital currency mining software that has stirred up a lot of controversies as it allows subscribers to benefit by mining cryptocurrencies using the CPU power of user’s computers. The idea behind this is to provide website owners with an alternative monetisation route so that they do not need to fill their websites with adverts. However, the majority of Coinhive scripts have been used without informing users that their CPU power is being drained to mine monero, which is why the Coinhive software is largely being classified as malware today.

Prolonged YouTube Site Visits

Troy Mursch, an independents security researcher, told Ars Technica in an interview:

“YouTube was likely targeted because users are typically on the site for an extended period of time. This is a prime target for cryptojacking malware, because the longer the users are mining for cryptocurrency the more money is made.”

Mursch went on to mention the September campaign that used Showtime’s website to give cryptocurrency mining ads as an example of video sites that were being targeted by attackers.

In some instances, the malicious mining script had images that displayed ads for fake antivirus programs that then scam people and have them pay for fake programs. A user will run the software thinking it is an antivirus but unbeknownst to them, it is malware. Ads analyzed by researchers at Trend Micro and shared on social media showed that the fake antivirus ads mined Monero coins and used a Coinhive site key. The international cyber security company said the campaign kicked off on the January 18, and that it was hard to know the exact number of coins that had so far been mined.

Google Statement Regarding the Malware

In an email sent to Ars Technica, a Google representative wrote,

“Mining cryptocurrency through ads is a relatively new form of abuse that violates our policies and one that we’ve been monitoring actively. We enforce our policies through a multi-layered detection system across our platforms which we update as new threats emerge. In this case, the ads were blocked in less than two hours and the malicious actors were quickly removed from our platforms.”

While the above statement from Google states that the ads were quickly blocked, Trend Micro’s findings showed that the scripts were activated from 18 of January and about a week later – 24 of January to be precise – the company had witnessed a 285 percent spike in Coinhive miners. The Google representative did not respond to any follow up questions regarding the timelines for the blocked ads.

As the web-based crypto mining malware issue becomes more rampant, different antivirus programs are warning people of cryptocurrency mining malware that are present on websites and are providing users with an option to block them.

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Particl Launches Decentralised Marketplace With Zero Commission Fees

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Privacy-focused cryptocurrency project Particl has launched a decentralised marketplace with zero commission fees. The new e-commerce platform is leveraging blockchain technology to compete with the likes of Amazon and OpenBazaar.

Privacy and Zero Commission Fees

ParticlCryptocurrencies can be difficult to spend on a day-to-day basis and Particl wants to solve this through its private coin, PART. On the Particl marketplace, users can put the digital currency to use.

The new decentralised marketplace respects user privacy and does not require personal information from its users. The platform only requires a shipping address. Moreover, the decentralised nature of the Particl marketplace ensures that no commissions are added to sales as is the case on Amazon.

According to an article on Big Commerce, fees for sellers can be as much as 45 percent of a product’s cost on Amazon. Particl’s zero-free model, therefore, enables sellers to significantly increase their revenue and lower their prices to stay ahead of the competition while still making a profit.

“Using a combination of P2P and blockchain technologies, Particl Open Marketplace can provide a verifiable private shopping experience that ensures no user data can be created or collected by any party other than the one you are transacting with. The Particl protocol also brings the cost of buying and selling online to the bare minimum as no central entity can charge fees,” said Particl’s Project Marketing and Strategy Manager Paul Schmitzer.

How Particl’s Decentralised Marketplace Works

Particl is uniquely approaching fraud and trade insurance through the use of a double deposit escrow system without intermediaries and with zero fees. This system is based on MAD game theory where two parties deposit PART coins as collateral into a smart contract. Once the transaction between them is complete, the coins are released back to the parties and no fees are charged. This system allows users to be in control of their transactions and to eliminate fraud.

 

Since the marketplace is decentralised, the protocol generates all listing fees and redistributes them to the global network of users.

Particl is made up of three components: an untraceable multi-purpose privacy coin, a private decentralised marketplace where users can shop with cryptocurrencies, and a platform where developers can build decentralised applications.

Particl allows a wide range of cryptocurrencies and uses atomic swaps and third-party integrations to convert these coins to PART during transactions. The company will soon add more payment options to its marketplace.

In 2018, Bitcoin Africa talked to Particl’s spokesperson Desi-Rae about the project. Read the full interview here.

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South Africans Can Now Buy Ether (ETH) Using Rand on Luno

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Global cryptocurrency exchange Luno has now enabled crypto traders in South Africa to buy ether using rand on its platform.

Trading on Luno

LunoLuno offers users an easy and safe place to buy bitcoin and ether and to learn about cryptocurrencies. The exchange has more than 2.7 million customers across 40 countries.

Luno also has a dedicated Ethereum series on its learning platform to help users make informed investment decisions.

Commenting on the new launch, Luno’s General Manager in Africa, Marius Reitz, said: “The direct Ethereum/Rand pair will make it quicker, simpler, and cheaper for customers to interact with and use Ethereum on the exchange. We are working on a number of enhancements to our platform and this pairing has been introduced in response to demand from our customers. Previously, customers could buy Ethereum through our instant buy option but having this ability directly on the exchange makes it faster and cheaper for traders.”

According to Reitz, Luno makes sure that every coin listed in its exchange has undergone due diligence. “There are over 2000 cryptocurrencies. However, many of these are scams, so customers need to trust that the exchange they use has verified the track records of cryptocurrencies available on their platforms. Luno limits the currencies on offer to those on which we have completed extensive research and due diligence and we are satisfied with their credibility in terms of security and adoption. Luno will be adding additional cryptocurrencies to its platform later this year,” he explained.

Luno Report

A recent report from Luno showed that South Africa and other emerging markets would like to see a change in the current financial system.

“Individuals in these markets cannot afford to, and should no longer need to, pay high exchange rates, accept national currency devaluation or lose out when they simply transfer money. Access to a more inclusive financial system will enable people everywhere to think of new and better ways of exchanging value and technology allows this,” Reitz elaborated.

Luno plans to upgrade its platform, expand its team, and open new offices in expectation of the next surge in the value of cryptoassets.

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Emerging Markets More Likely to Adopt Cryptocurrencies from Global Brands, Luno Study Says

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A new study by digital asset exchange Luno indicates that emerging markets are more likely to adopt cryptocurrencies from global brands. This finding was collected from a survey called the ‘Future of Money’ carried out between May 17, 2019, and June 7, 2019. The survey interviewed over 7000 respondents from Nigeria, South Africa, the United Kingdom, France, Indonesia, Italy, and Malaysia.

Emerging Markets, the Future of Money and Libra

According to the ‘Future of Money’ survey, the early adopters of cryptocurrencies are likely to come from emerging markets. The findings, therefore, show a close connection between emerging markets and the future of money confirming the view that those with “less appear to take greater financial risks.”

For instance, more respondents from Nigeria and South Africa than in the UK said a single global currency would make the current financial system better.

African man with smartphoneThese results come at a time when Facebook recently announced that it will introduce Libra, a new digital currency in 2020. The aim of Libra is to help people make financial transactions online, especially in emerging markets where banks are not servicing the population as well as they should be.

Luno’s CEO Marcus Swanepoel said: “As some of the world’s largest tech giants announce they are launching cryptocurrency coins, we believe developing markets will be the lead adopters. Our research shows that in these markets people are more financially savvy because they have to be, which means that they need and understand the benefits the new coins can offer.”

To further show why the future of money could have a greater impact on emerging markets, data from the survey indicated that 33 percent of people in Indonesia are more likely to remain within a set budget compared to 0 percent in the UK.

Additionally, the number of people that establish a monthly budget is 80 percent in Malaysia, 65 percent in Nigeria, 73 percent in South Africa, 74 percent in Indonesia, and 54 percent in the UK. Asked why money is crucial to them, the respondents said it was to secure their families’ well-being (60 percent) and to pay for education.  This answer was given by 25 percent of the respondents from Nigeria compared to 8 percent in the UK.

Luno is a global cryptocurrency company headquartered in London and with offices in South Africa.

Grassroots Adoption

Crypto adoption will probably take place at the grassroots level than at the institutional level, Swanepoel observed. He based this argument on the findings that most people from emerging markets will probably seek financial advice from family, friends, and colleagues than from government organisations.

“It is very clear that if money is not simply a ‘nice to have’ and is vital for your future, then you spend more time understanding it, managing it, preserving it and to an extent being creative with how you maximise the use of it. Therefore, if a cryptocurrency can provide a secure and cheaper means of exchanging value better than the existing system, it will be used. This is why we believe that as new cryptocurrencies linked to global brands are introduced, they will find an important audience in emerging markets,” Swanepoel added.

Luno’s study paints a clear picture of what the future of money could look like. However, certain factors such as Internet connectivity could inhibit the fast adoption of crypto in developing markets.

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