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Cryptojacking: The terrifying cyber threat none of us have heard of

This week, it was revealed that over 4,000 websites, including the NHS, the US government’s court system, Manchester.gov.uk, the Student Loans Company and the Financial Ombudsman Service have all been hijacked by hackers who use them to secretly mine cryptocurrencies.

Hackers exploit a very common plugin, called Browsealoud, which is used by these sites. Then, when visitors come to a website, they involuntary give up their computing power to the hackers.

Events like this will make it even harder to legitimise crypto in the minds of most people. Historically, cryptocurrencies have been, in the main, used by people who can’t access financial services, or who want to avoid using financial systems.

On Monday, to take another unfortunate example, Europol disclosed that £3bn to 4bn of criminal money is being laundered through cryptocurrencies. Because these digital stores of value are not printed, regulated or controlled by governments or central banks, and transactions are effectively made anonymously, it’s a realm that law enforcement cannot really access. Criminals are converting fiat currency into bitcoins, splitting it into smaller amounts and distributing it to “money mules”. Those individuals then convert the bitcoins back into fiat currency, before handing the money back to the criminals.

Is it hard to see how crypto, impervious to central regulation and control, will become globally adopted?

 

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