More than 100 uniques families of malware have been created to take advantage of the Bitcoin boom and provide cybercriminals with access to virtual currency around the world, research from Dell reveals.
According to Dell SecureWorks, theft is "rife" in the market as data thieves aim to cash in on the soaring value of Bitcoin and similar digital currencies.
It comes as leading Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox filed for bankruptcy protection on Friday, after confirming that around 750,000 Bitcoins worth $446 million had been lost
On top of these missing customer holdings, an additional 100,000 Bitcoins belonging to the company have disappeared, which equates to a total loss of more than $500 million worth of Bitcoins.
The company believes that a software bug was responsible for creating an increase in incomplete Bitcoin transfers, which hackers could have exploited to take out funds - a practice that is proliferating in line with the value of Bitcoin itself, Dell states.
It notes that the number of Windows-compatible cryptocurrency-stealing malware families has soared over the last six months as the Bitcoin revolution has taken shape, with the most common type of CCSM being the "wallet stealer".
This operates by searching for well-known wallet software key storage locations, uploading the necessary files to a remote server, and then extracting the keys and stealing the Bitcoins through a signed transaction.
Some exchanges have already taken steps to combat this practice, by implementing two-factor authentication using one-time PINs, but newer, more advanced malware is able to bypass this by intercepting the OTP, creating a second hidden browser window and logging into the victim's computer.
Dell SecureWorks says that effective policing is difficult, as around 50 per cent of malware that is installed on a computer is not spotted by major antivirus providers, while two-factor authentication and antivirus software have been proven ineffective in many cases.
As such, Dell SecureWorks suggests the use of alternative wallets such as Armory and Electrum, which use a split arrangement for key storage that can help to curb the threat of malware-related theft and prevent major losses.