Bank card details, social network and other accounts, files... Is there anything else that might be of interest to attackers that we haven’t touched upon yet?
Yes. Your computer itself!
And no, we’re not talking about plain old-fashioned theft. Today’s cybercrooks often prefer the device to remain in your hands, but working for them.
In what way exactly? The first and most commonplace use is to make money. Quite literally. True, not ordinary money, but the digital variety, including bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which can still buy real things.
It takes a vast amount of computing power to create cryptocurrency, for which lots of computers or like devices are required. Those looking to get rich on digital coins usually earn them in exchange for doing complex mathematical number-crunching
on their own facilities. This is called mining, and is perfectly legal.
But cybercriminals soon realized that computing power for mining could be “borrowed” from elsewhere, saving on electricity in the process. And so hidden miners were born – mining programs that operate under the computer owner’s radar. If infected
with a hidden miner, your computer will consume large amounts of electricity, slow down, and get very hot, all the while earning virtual money for the cybercriminals. In the end, it is likely to burn out, again very literally. If a hidden miner
sneaks onto a smartphone, the risk of overheating and damage is even greater.
The cybercriminal world also likes to use other people’s computers to distribute commercial spam and launch made-to-order attacks. One machine, however, won’t generate much profit. But a network of thousands of infected devices is another thing entirely.
Malware exists whose specific task is to turn other people’s computers into zombies, or bots, and combine them into a remotely controlled network, known as a botnet.
Infected and “botnetized” machines are now at the mercy of the cybercriminals. Behind their owners’ backs, these computer bots can distribute spam and/or malware, download illegal content, and even bruteforce passwords to other users’ accounts.
An unscrupulous competitor could also hire a botnet to take down a company’s website by ordering all the botnet computers to flood it with requests, making it inaccessible to users.
Basically, if your computer is turned into a zombie, the cybercriminals will profit and you will become an unwitting accomplice.
The advice for guarding against such a calamity is the same as for any other: vigilance, antiviruses installed on all devices, and our lessons. Keep your digital life safe and sound!
Why might your computer be of use to cybercriminals?