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Survey shows organisations in the dark about shadow mining threat

03 Apr 2019

Exabeam announced the results of a survey that revealed the majority of organisations are overlooking the threat of shadow mining, with 65 per cent of organisations unfamiliar with the term and more than half (57 per cent) unfamiliar with the wider-but-related threat of crypto jacking.

Cryptojacking is an external threat that occurs when a hacker compromises a privileged user to covertly ‘mine’ cryptocurrencies using an organisation’s IT resources. Yet, shadow mining, a form of Shadow IT, occurs when a malicious insider compromises their organisation’s computing resources to illicitly mine cryptocurrencies. Shadow IT refers to any surreptitious or unauthorised use of IT infrastructure by an employee.

To be successful and remain undetected, shadow mining depends on deliberately configuring security systems to function incorrectly. This makes an organisation less secure, introduces software that consumes additional resources, increases the attack surface, and makes affected computers less reliable. 

Out of 150 cybersecurity professionals surveyed in March 2019 at the Cloud and Cybersecurity Expo 2019 in London, almost half (47 per cent) are not confident they have the security policies and tools in place to detect and prevent illicit cryptocurrency mining activity occurring on their organisation’s network infrastructure.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • 42 per cent of respondents believe the biggest IT threats come from outside their organisation, whereas just 22 per cent view the insider threat of shadow mining as significant.
     
  • Only 43 per cent of respondents are familiar with the threat of crypto jacking to their organisation, falling to just 35 per cent for shadow mining.
     
  • Six per cent of those surveyed were clear they cannot detect or prevent illicit cryptocurrency mining activity occurring on their network, with 13 per cent not at all confident they can.

The study also highlighted a lack of awareness for crypto jacking and shadow mining compared to other common cybersecurity threats. Ransomware (40 per cent) and bring your own device (BYOD) threats (28 per cent) were cited as the two most common IT security challenges facing organisations. Shadow mining (10 per cent) and crypto jacking (9 per cent) were rarely cited.

The risk for many organisations is real. Shadow mining can be lucrative and, with vast resources available in online forums and how-to guides, relatively easy to initiate. Equipped with a basic understanding of cryptocurrencies, a system administrator needs very little additional expertise to deploy miners throughout their company.

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