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What is Cryptojacking and How to Protect Yourself From it

27 Nov 2019

What is Cryptojacking and How to Protect Yourself From it

What is Cryptojacking?

There had been many cyber-attacks in recent years but this new mode of cryptocurrency mining has not been recognized as a major cybersecurity threat until the first quarter of 2018.

Surprisingly, hackers surpassed ransomware cyber-attack into this new form of cryptojacking. This is a new format of cyber-crime that involves exploiting internet user’s bandwidth and processing power to mine cryptocurrency.

Attackers and hackers intelligently attack users by getting them to click on malicious links in an email that spontaneously loads the crypto mining code on their computers. It has been observed that by cryptojacking mobiles, laptops, and back-end servers, crypto attackers evidently hack the CPU and GPU of the devices and mine cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Monero. Typically, as in other cybercrimes, it is extremely difficult to find the hackers visibly.

Cryptojacking has become more prevalent these days as hackers use someone else’s computing power to mine cryptocurrencies without their knowledge. It has become easier for them, as they need only machines for performing this cyber-attack.

A recent report by the Internet Society’s Cyber Incidents Report 2018 stated that cryptojacking saw a marked increase in 2018 and detected more than 1.3 million instances of cryptojacking code, a three-fold increase compared to 2017.

Cryptojacking – an Easy Way of Crypto Mining for Hackers

During the last two years, cryptojacking has been evidently empowering hackers to make use of infected endpoints (of CPUs & GPUs) for swifter and assured financial gains. The process involves embedding malware into certain popular websites that drive numerous visitors every day on a regular basis or binding in executable files.

However, in reality, hackers quickly mine cryptocurrencies of visitors browsing these websites and deposit them into their secret wallets. These cryptocurrencies can be mined on personal computers either by using file-based miners or by using the more common browser-based miners. Moreover, this mining process continues for longer periods of time as their detection becomes really tough for users.

Computers are the major mode of these attacks as cyber attackers take the complete advantage of vulnerabilities involved with outdated software. However, the longer a person stays on a cryptojacked website, the more cryptocurrency gets mined.

Most of these cryptojacking sites are usually streaming media sites, wherein users tend to spend more time and become more affected due to these attacks.

In-Browser Cryptojacking

This is the most common type of attack, commonly named as in-browser cryptojacking which uses Javascript on a web page to intelligently mine cryptocurrency.

Typically, these cryptojacking scripts allow to install a miner on to your website and the majority of websites use cryptojacking software to mine cryptocurrency named Monero.

Basically, Monero is a privacy-focused cryptocurrency that started in 2014 and is one of cryptocurrency that supports in-browser mining. Monero, unlike a bitcoin, is derived from Crypto Note which has a virtual anonymous ledger and it does not hold any public ledger due to which tracing them becomes very difficult.

Therefore, with in-browser cryptojacking, the hackers inject malicious Javascript code into the popular websites (highly ranked) which is unknown to the website owners and thus mine cryptocurrencies for themselves.

According to a report by Investopedia, the governments in Britain, the U.S. and Canada were affected by a cryptojacking attack that took advantage of a vulnerability in a text-to-speech software embedded in many of these government sites. Cyber attackers inserted certain scripts into the software, allowing them to mine monero using visitor’s browsers.

What Harm Cryptojacking can Cause?

1. Cryptojacking involves currency mining of monero which has been ever-spreading these days

2. Mining is effectively processor-intensive, evidently requires more heat and usually damages the hardware of attacked machines.

3. Damages the victim’s computers thereby shortening the lifespan of devices they become unusable

4. It also drastically slows down machines, laptop’s get their battery totally drained out due to overheating

5. Mining process requires a considerable amount of energy and hence electricity usage increases

6. Cryptocurrency mining not only harms the hijacked computers but it also consumes a lot of electricity and causes damage to large networks and computers

7. Especially when an organization is running on cryptojacked systems, it results in causing economic losses and even reduces the operational capacity of systems

8. It also harms universities, companies, and other large organizations systems when they use cryptojacked machines

9. Cryptojacking in the cloud could cause additional costs for businesses that are usually billed based on the CPU usage

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Some of the Common Signs of Cryptojacking

– Unusual ups and downs (significant spikes) in CPU usage

– Abnormal CPU fan speeds

– Noticeable battery-draining observed

– Weakening of system networks

– Slowing down of devices seen

– Attacked laptops make marked noises

– Sudden impaired device performance astonishes users

How to Protect from Cryptojacking?

1. Use Strong Passwords to ensure better system and protection

2. Download Apps and Software Carefully (especially while downloading Cracks, Keygens software)

3. Use Up-to-Date Anti-Virus Software

4. Maintain Stable Networks

5. Block anything that is malicious

6. Update Windows software frequently to prevent vulnerabilities

7. Install browser extensions that prevent systems from cryptojacking attacks

8. Block most common Javascript miners

9. Block browser-based mining scripts

Conclusion

During recent years, Cryptojacking has become a major cyber-crime and is becoming a popular way for cyber attackers to extract cryptocurrency from various targets. Specifically, in-browser cryptojacking uses Javascript on a web page to exclusively and intelligently mine cryptocurrency -Monero.

Cryptojacking should be managed effectively by ensuring updated anti-virus to be installed across systems, blocking any malicious Javascript miners or browser-based mining scripts along with usage of strong passwords across systems.

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