One of the biggest challenges facing bitcoin and especially adoption of the currency is the variety of malware and other types of scams. Even relatively benign malware programs that steal computing power, rather than actual bitcoins, tarnish the reputation of bitcoin. Data compiled by digital security firm Kaspersky Lab, however, suggests that bitcoin malware declined in Q2 of 2015, and could in fact be safer than traditional banking.
Importantly, malware that targets traditional banking services makes up the vast majority of all malware, some 83 percent. 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.
Kaspersky Lab has found that the majority of bitcoin specific malware programs (9 percent of total) tend to focus on bitcoin 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 use part of the computing power to mine bitcoins. 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 bitcoins, accounts for 6 percent of all cybersecurity threats. While this number may seem small in relation 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 of the bitcoins stored in that wallet.
In total, bitcoin related malware accounted for 15 percent of all cyber security threats. This number is high, but represents a signification decline from 22 percent in Q2 of 2014. As the bitcoin community becomes more aware of the threats and issues, 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 bitcoin itself. Malware mining scams, for example, don’t necessarily require users to have to use bitcoin in order to be scammed, 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 bitcoin, 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 bitcoin 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 what bitcoins, 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 will be 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 actually be safer than traditional banking, at least as far as hacking is concerned.
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