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Increasingly Sophisticated Crypto Attacks Require Increasingly Sophisticated Defenses

Increasingly Sophisticated Crypto Attacks Require Increasingly Sophisticated Defenses

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As the value and visibility of cryptocurrencies continue to rise, the industry is gradually being exposed to increasingly sophisticated security issues. While institutional players typically have the resources and expertise to fortify their assets under multiple layers of defense, retail investors must take it upon themselves to learn about different types of attacks and determine how to mitigate these risks. To that end, we’ve compiled some of the most common yet devastating security risks below:
  • Traditional Web Infrastructure Attacks
Digital currency exchanges, like other industries, run end-applications on web services which are oftentimes not built from the ground up with security considerations in mind. As a result, the legacy infrastructure of many popular online service providers is not sufficiently future-proofed against evolving web security risks, which can allow external parties to take remote control of a company’s server or crash the intranet. Compromised systems are susceptible to SQL injections and other similar attacks, which can modify a transaction address and reconfigure critical user authorizations, much like the ComboJack malware.
Even if a digital platform is generally well-constructed, the way it is tethered to the internet can still be exploited. Web hosts which expose network services to the Internet are relentlessly attacked, and multiple studies indicate that a publicly exposed host is typically discovered and attacked within minutes of being placed on the network. From there, malicious actors would be able to directly attack the exposed host and re-appropriate it for their ends.
  • Front-running Risks
Traditionally, front-running occurs when traders use insider knowledge or high-frequency trading algorithms to detect orders from rival traders, then rapidly inject their order in front of that trade, leading the rival to buy at a higher cost and increasing the value of the front-runner’s newly purchased asset. This is an issue in both cryptocurrency trading and stock trading, but while front-running in traditional markets is restricted by a variety of regulations, the cryptocurrency market is far less regulated and therefore more susceptible to market manipulation.
Front-running within the cryptocurrency space is particularly egregious, as there have been multiple cases where attackers use their funds to open a low position for a particular cryptocurrency while using funds stolen from a large exchange account to artificially inflate the currency price, pulling the compromised user up to the high position. As a result, the attacker’s positions are sold first, and the stolen user’s funds are then transferred to out of their account through the secondary market for a quick profit. These attacks were commonplace during the ICO craze due to the overwhelming public interest in the potential windfall ICOs insinuated, with little attention paid to the dangers imposed by such attacks. Furthermore, few cryptocurrency exchanges are willing to proactively announce these attacks due to the reputational damage it could incur.
  • Phishing Attacks
Although they are relatively low-tech, phishing attacks have grown increasingly sophisticated and are notoriously hard to prevent since they exploit social behavior to achieve their goals. BitcoinTalk’s network service provider was compromised by a successful phishing attack in 2015, and even Binance was forced to deal with the aftermath of a widespread phishing scheme last year, during which attackers used stolen funds to artificially pump and dump a variety of altcoins for their own gain.
In these cases, anonymous groups were able to identify key individuals with access credentials to multiple databases or servers, then implement a coordinated, high-precision phishing attack to acquire those credentials. As a result, the damage resulting from phishing attacks oftentimes extends beyond the initial victim, reverberating negatively throughout an entire system.
  • Collision Attacks
As more people create online crypto-related accounts and transact digital assets, the volume of inadvertent user information disclosures skyrocketed. This is mainly because most people are accustomed to using a fixed set of account passwords, which provides attackers with an opening. Sophisticated attackers can simply parse through entire libraries of leaked data, obtain potentially relevant identification credentials or partial digital signature information which they can then use to access and empty a user’s account.
Even without a full user password, more tech-savvy attackers are also able to exploit hash function collisions to bypass protocols such as MD5 and SHA-1, which are widely used to build authentication and integrity mechanisms in cryptographic protocols.
  • Temporary Network Hijacking
Temporary network hijacking utilizes military-grade tactics to replace the target network of close contact with the target network to achieve further attacks. Attacks of this nature typically involve a Trojan malware component designed to spread internally within an infected system, moving laterally from an internet-connected remote monitoring server to other devices and systems that weren’t meant to be exposed.
To date, network hijacking malware has been found in everything from government servers in North America to an operational technology network controlling water utilities across Europe. While within the context of crypto, these attacks have only involved relatively benign crypto-mining malware, coupled with more disruptive cyberterrorism tactics which are capable of shutting down large-scale national targets. The effects of a temporary network hijacking could severely compromise the entire internet architecture upon which the bourgeoning crypto ecosystem relies on.
As crypto assets take up an increasingly large portion of many investors’ portfolio, there is also an increasing need to understand the underlying principles of the blockchain and appreciate the importance of private keys. Every crypto investor needs to take digital asset protection very seriously, and at Cobo, our central motivation is to support secure and streamlined blockchain development and make it easier to own and utilize the crypto tokens of your choice. To this end, Cobo Wallet’s Hardware Security Module technology ensures that the vast majority of our user assets are stored in a fully offline, globally distributed system, and are further protected by multiple software layer protocols and a multi-signature mechanism which prevents funds from getting lost due to a single point of failure.
Cybercrime will continue to evolve in tandem with the cryptocurrency sector and industry digitization, and many online exchanges and even hardware custodial solutions are not equipped to repel the full spectrum of approaches and tools malicious actors can implement. As you take steps to safeguard your digital assets, it is imperative that you thoroughly research your crypto custodianship options, avoid making purchases from third-party distributors, and ensure that your wallet’s security mechanisms are pressure-tested against the worst possible scenarios.
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Binance Launches Crypto Mining Pool Amid Centralization Concerns

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