What is Cryptojacking and How Can You Protect Against It

What is Cryptojacking and How Can You Protect Against It

In 2023, cryptojacking saw an incredible surge, breaking the record set in 2022. By early April 2023, the total number of cryptojacking hits had already exceeded the previous year’s total.

A threat researcher at SonicWall Capture Labs said that by the end of the year he had recorded $1.06 billion worth of cryptojacking incidents. This is a staggering 659% increase compared to 2022.

This increase was not limited to any particular region. Almost everywhere around the world, cryptojacking incidents are increasing by three or four orders of magnitude.

Let’s dig deeper into this topic to understand what cryptojacking actually is and why it has become a pressing issue for the crypto community.

Cryptojacking Meaning: What is Cryptojacking?

Cryptojacking, also known as malicious cryptomining or cryptomining malware, is when a hacker takes over a victim’s computer resources and uses the victim’s consent to do so. It is a type of cyber attack that mines virtual currency without any security.

This attack typically installs malware on a victim’s device, such as a computer, smartphone, or server, and runs in the background, using the victim’s computing power and energy resources to mine cryptocurrency.

One of the key characteristics of cryptojacking is its stealth nature. Unlike ransomware attacks that require payment, cryptojacking can be done without the victim knowing, as the goal is to secretly mine cryptocurrencies without informing the victim of the presence of the malware. It often happens.

Cryptojacking attacks can target not only organizations and businesses, but also individual users. In some cases, attackers target high-profile websites and inject malicious code into the site’s code to mine cryptocurrency while abusing site visitors’ computing resources. there is.

The rise of cryptojacking is fueled by the growing popularity and value of virtual currencies, making mining them a lucrative endeavor for attackers.

Furthermore, the rise of cryptocurrencies designed to be mined using the computing power of ordinary devices, such as Monero, has made it easier for attackers to monetize their attacks.

Types of Cryptojacking

There are many different forms of cryptojacking, each with its own techniques and impact on the victim. Let’s understand the main types.

Browser-based cryptojacking: This form of cryptojacking occurs when a user visits a website that has been compromised with malicious code. The code (often JavaScript) runs in the background of the user’s web browser without the user’s knowledge. It then uses the user’s device’s computing resources to mine cryptocurrencies. This type of cryptojacking does not require any software installation, so it can be difficult to detect. Browser-based cryptojacking can lead to increased CPU usage, which can cause your device to slow down or overheat.

File-based cryptojacking: In this type of attack, an attacker distributes a malicious file (such as an email attachment or a downloadable file) that contains cryptojacking malware. Once the victim runs the file, the malware is installed on the device. Once installed, the malware uses your device’s resources to mine cryptocurrency. File-based cryptojacking can be more harmful than browser-based cryptojacking as it can lead to the installation of persistent malware that continues mining cryptocurrencies after the initial infection.

Cloud cryptojacking: This form of cryptojacking targets cloud infrastructure such as cloud servers and containers. Attackers exploit vulnerabilities in cloud infrastructure to gain unauthorized access and install cryptojacking malware. Once installed, the malware uses the cloud provider’s resources to mine cryptocurrencies. Cloud cryptojacking can be particularly damaging, as it can result in significant financial losses for cloud providers and their customers. It may also impact the performance of affected cloud services.

Examples of Cryptojacking

Here are some examples of malicious uses of cryptojacking:

Coinhive: Coinhive is one of the most notorious examples of browser-based cryptojacking. It offered a JavaScript miner that website owners could embed on their websites to mine Monero. However, many site owners used it without informing or getting their visitors’ consent, which led to widespread complaints and ultimately led to Coinhive being shut down in early 2019.

WannaMine: WannaMine was a file-based cryptojacking malware that targeted Windows-based systems. The virus spreads through phishing emails and malicious attachments and installs itself on victim computers by exploiting vulnerabilities in the Windows operating system. Once installed, WannaMine could use infected computers to mine cryptocurrency, causing performance issues and potentially harming affected systems.

Docker Hub Cryptojacking: In 2018, researchers discovered that attackers uploaded malicious Docker container images to Docker Hub, a common repository for Docker container images. These images contained cryptojacking malware that exploited the resources of all systems running infected containers. This incident highlighted the security risks associated with using third-party container images and the importance of verifying the integrity of images before use.

Android-based cryptojacking apps: There have been several cases where cryptojacking apps have been discovered on the Google Play Store. Although these apps claim to provide legitimate services, they secretly mine cryptocurrencies in the background, draining your device’s battery and consuming resources. Although Google is currently taking steps to detect and remove such apps from the Play Store, the threat still persists.

Tesla Cloud Cryptojacking Incident: In 2018, Tesla’s cloud infrastructure was compromised by an attacker who installed his cryptojacking malware. The attacker used his unsecured Kubernetes console to access Tesla’s Amazon Web Services (AWS) environment, where he deployed malware to mine cryptocurrencies. Tesla quickly addressed this issue and took steps to improve the security of its cloud infrastructure.

How can you detect cryptojacking?

Detecting cryptojacking can be difficult because attackers often use tactics to evade detection. However, there are some signs that your device or system has been compromised:

Increased CPU usage: Cryptojacking malware consumes large amounts of CPU resources, which can cause affected devices to become slow or unresponsive. You can detect unusual spikes in CPU usage by monitoring CPU usage using Task Manager or a system monitoring tool.

Overheating: Cryptojacking can cause your device to overheat, especially if the malware uses a lot of CPU power. By monitoring the temperature of your device, you can determine if it is being used for cryptojacking.

Increased Energy Consumption: Cryptojacking malware uses large amounts of energy to mine cryptocurrencies, so abnormally high energy bills can be a sign of cryptojacking activity.

Unusual network traffic: Cryptojacking malware communicates with external servers to receive instructions and send mined cryptocurrencies. Monitoring your network traffic for unusual patterns or connections to mining pools can indicate cryptojacking activity.

Anti-Malware Alert: Some anti-malware software detects the presence of cryptojacking malware and alerts you about it. Regular updates and running anti-malware scans can help detect and remove cryptojacking malware.

Browser extensions: Browser extensions allow you to detect and block cryptojacking scripts on websites. Extensions like NoCoin and MinerBlock can help protect against browser-based cryptojacking.

How can you prevent cryptojacking?

Preventing cryptojacking requires a combination of technical measures and best practices to protect your devices and systems.

Use anti-malware software: Install reliable anti-malware software and keep it up to date. Anti-malware programs can detect and remove cryptojacking. Malware from your device.

Keep your software up to date: Regularly update your operating system, browser, and plugins to protect against known vulnerabilities that cryptojacking malware may exploit.

Use ad blockers and anti-cryptojacking extensions: Browser extensions such as NoScript, uBlock Origin, and MinerBlock can help block cryptojacking scripts on websites.

Monitor system performance: Monitor device performance. If you notice a sudden drop in performance or increased energy consumption, it could be a sign of cryptojacking.

Utilize network security measures: Implement network security measures such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems to prevent unauthorized access to your network.

Restrict execution of JavaScript: Configure your browser to block the automatic execution of JavaScript, especially on untrusted websites.

Future Trends and Emerging Threats

Future trends in cryptojacking will likely focus on evading detection and increasing profitability for attackers.

Emerging threats include the use of more sophisticated techniques, such as polymorphic malware that can modify its code to evade detection by traditional anti-malware programs.

In addition, attackers are increasingly targeting Internet of Things (IoT) devices, which often lack strong security measures and require access to the Internet 24/7. connected to.

As cryptocurrencies become more mainstream, they expect that the incentives for attackers to engage in cryptojacking will increase.

To combat these new threats, it’s important to stay vigilant, keep your software up to date, and implement the latest security measures across all your devices and networks.

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