Hackers are generating an abundance of illegal cryptocurrency with some unexpected help from the U.S. government, a report claims.

Cryptocurrency mining malware attacks have surged 459 percent in 2018 compared to last year, the Cyber Threat Alliance said in its new report.

Where does the government come in? Blame EternalBlue, which was developed by the National Security Agency and then leaked by a hacker group in 2017. EternalBlue can exploit vulnerabilities in outdated Microsoft Systems software unless users upgrade or apply a patch.

After the EternalBlue leak, other hackers, such as those in Russia and North Korea, realized there was a previously unknown flaw in the software that could be used for damaging cyberattacks.

Now hackers are exploiting that flaw to use other people’s computers to mine free cryptocurrency.

As of July, 85 percent of all illicit cryptocurrency mining targeted monero (XMR), according to the report. Bitcoin (BTC) made up about 8 percent while other cryptocurrencies accounted for 7 percent.

Hackers can “sit back and watch the money roll in,” said Neil Jenkins, chief analytic officer of Cyber Threat Alliance, as quoted by Bloomberg.

According to a statement Bloomberg received from Microsoft, a security update on EternalBlue was released in March 2017. “Customers who applied the update are protected,” said Jeff Jones, a senior director at Microsoft. The NSA declined to comment.

ThirtyK Staff
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