Monero is a cryptocurrency that is highly prized for its privacy attributes.
Monero is a cryptocurrency that is created through mining, like bitcoin, but Monero is based on a different core technology called CryptoNote, which was developed in 2013 specifically to anonymize otherwise public transactions on a blockchain.
According to CoinMarketCap on June 11, 2018 Monero had been the 13th largest cryptocurrency (including both coins and tokens) and the 10th largest coin as measured by market capitalization. For the previous month Monero had been the 30th most active cryptocurrency by dollar value of its trading volume. Of the 207 exchanges listed, CoinMarketCap indicates trading volume only for 10 exchanges, hinting that Monero trading is not broadly popular.
Monero claims that transactions in Monero are confidential and untraceable because both senders' public keys and receivers' addresses are encrypted. Not only are such personal details not observable on the public blockchain, but also transaction encryption renders each Monero fungible with each other because the provenance of any one Monero coin cannot be traced.
While regulatory and law enforcement officials everywhere are naturally suspicious of the uses for Monero, Japan has taken steps to limit its tradability. After the massive $500 million hacking at Coincheck, the Japanese Financial Services Agency appears to have pressured Coincheck and its new owner Monex not to deal in Monero ostensibly because Monero was used to monetize the hack. In April 2018, at a working group meeting of experts on virtual currency under the auspices of the Financial Services Agency, Monero was specifically mentioned as a highly problematic virtual currency because its anonymity could let it be used for money laundering and other illicit purposes.
Hijacking: North Korean Mining and Salon.com
In light of its anonymity, Monero seems to be favored by rogue miners to co-opt third parties' computing power to mine it, either illicitly or even with their blessing. On January 8, 2018 AlienVault, a U.S. cybersecurity firm, reported that it had discovered malicious software ("malware") that was being used to mine Monero on other third parties computers and send the newly mined Monero to Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, North Korean. The purpose of the hacking seems to have been to raise funds for the North Korean government. A month later, in February 2018, the online American news and entertainment service Salon offered its readers the opportunity to suppress advertisements in exchange for allowing Salon to use customers' computers to mine monero for Salon's benefit.
May 2018 saw reports from 360 Total Security, another cyber security firm, that it had discovered that monero-mining malware named ‘WinstarNssmMiner’ had been installed on approximately half a million PCs. In June 2018 a cybersecurity firm named Gaurdicore Ltd reported that it had uncovered a widespread hijacking campaign that hacked approximately 40,000 computers, largely to mine Monero. Coinhive, a hijacking program used to mine Monero from the PCs of persons who visit websites where Coinhive has been installed, has been reported to have infected a number of commercial websites in addition to the websites of U.S. and other governmental agencies in order to mine Monero.
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- Japan's Financial Regulator Is Pushing Crypto Exchanges To Drop 'Altcoins' Favored By Criminals. Forbes.
- Hackers have found a way to mine cryptocurrency and send it to North Korea. CNBC.
- Salon Is Asking Readers to Mine Cryptocurrency if They Don’t Want to See Ads. Slate.
- New Cryptojacking Malware Crashes Your PC When You Try to Remove It. Finance Magnates.
- Operation Prowli Malware Infects Over 40,000 Machines. Cointelegraph.
- Coinhive Code Found On 300+ Websites Worldwide In Recent Cryptojacking Campaign. Cointelegraph.