The global energy sector is facing a time of uncertainty due to a confluence of geopolitical, economic, and environmental factors. Energy prices for consumers are soaring and several energy firms have folded under rising wholesale prices. In tandem, the cyber threat landscape is growing increasingly complex, further complicating the picture for global energy suppliers. While governments and regulatory bodies urge the critical infrastructure sector to double down on cyber defence, Darktrace’s exclusive data shows that illegal crypto- mining threats are on the rise in the UK and US energy sectors.
What is Crypto-mining?
Crypto-mining is the process of creating new units of crypto-currency or ‘coins’ by solving mathematical puzzles generated by each respective currency’s algorithm. It refers to the process whereby a global network of computers running, for example, the Bitcoin code, work to ensure that transactions are legitimate. High-powered computers compete to be the first to validate a series of transactions called a block and add the block to the blockchain. Where once this could be achieved on regular CPUs, the process was too slow and now the crypto-currency is generated using large mining pools spread across the world. Mining pools include incredibly expensive and powerful computers whose sole function is to run algorithms to solve the mathematical puzzle that allows their owner to win a Bitcoin block.
Despite a challenging year in terms of price for crypto-currency, more miners than ever are joining the network, which is driving up the difficulty of mining new coins. If we take Bitcoin as an example, on average, the difficulty adjustment of mining Bitcoin occurs roughly every two weeks, or 2,016 blocks, to ensure that the current schedule of all Bitcoin being mined and in circulation by the year 2140, remains. In the original Bitcoin whitepaper, author Satoshi Nakamoto explained that if blocks are generated too fast, the difficulty increases. In October 2022, Bitcoin mining difficulty (the complexity that miners must overcome to solve valid blocks) hit a new all-time high. As the difficulty increases, so does the power needed to mine.