App monitoring, cryptojacking: Cyber-threats to watch out for

January 12, 2018 13:43
An analyst looks at code in a malware lab. Guarding against cyber-threats is becoming more challenging as criminals come up with new hacking tools. Photo: Reuters

From WannaCry ransomware to malicious malware and data breaches, 2017 saw a new wave of cyber-attacks and hacks. Given all the data exposed around us, security concern comes as no surprise.

The Hong Kong Economic Journal recently sought the views of Anthony Lai Cheuk Tung, a computer security researcher, about the cybersecurity threats to watch out for in 2018. Here are brief excerpts from the interview:

Q: Recently there was talk that China's social media platforms would monitor users' conversation, and access their messages and chat history for big-data analysis. Does that practice actually occur?

A: That is foreseen when you use Chinese apps. Authorities monitoring citizens' activities through mobile apps, in fact, happens everywhere; it is just that the activity varies in degree. I would recommend people not to transfer personal or commercial secrets, passwords and personal photos on messaging apps. Users can choose messaging apps that have enhanced privacy functions; for example, messages can be set to self-destruct after reading.

Q: With the meteoric surge in the price of bitcoin, the most prominent cryptocurrency in the market, cryptojacking, which involves using someone's computer without their knowledge to mine a cryptocurrency, has emerged as a concern. Have you heard of this new type of cybercrime?

A: Yes. In fact, several popular websites, such as local internet forum 'Baby Kingdom' and job search website, were reported to be embedded with the connection to mining malware. 

Cryptocurrency has surged in price and popularity in recent years, with hackers capitalizing on the boom. If hackers can manage to infect the cryptojacking software and control thousands of computers to mine a cryptocurrency, it can be very profitable.

One common means that hackers use is to slip some code onto a website to harness the computers of those visiting the site. Every time you visit the affected website, the hacker can use your CPU resources to mine the cryptocurrency. Therefore, popular websites with a large number of users become the potential targets.

In order to protect your computing resources, you can check if your browser has any suspicious and long-lasting connection.

A fuller version of this article can be read here in Chinese.

Translation by Ben Ng

– Contact us at [email protected]


Hong Kong Economic Journal