What is Cryptojacking? Definition, Types, Detection & Prevention

What is Cryptojacking? Definition, Types, Detection & Prevention

Cryptojacking is a type of cybercrime where hackers use your computer to mine cryptocurrency. The more coins that are mined, the more money the hacker can make. Unfortunately, cryptojacking is becoming increasingly popular and is becoming easier to do. In this article, we’ll answer the following questions regarding What is Cryptojacking? Definition, Types, Detection & Prevention

What is a Cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is a digital payment mechanism that does not rely on banks for transaction verification. Instead, it’s a peer-to-peer system that allows anyone to make and receive payments anywhere. Cryptocurrency payments exist solely as digital entries to an online database identifying specific transactions rather than as tangible money carried around and exchanged in the real world. The transactions you make with cryptocurrency funds are recorded in a public ledger. Digital wallets are used to store cryptocurrency.

The phrase “cryptocurrency” comes from the fact that it uses encryption to verify transactions. This means that storing and sending cryptocurrency data between wallets and public ledgers requires complex coding. Encryption’s goal is to ensure security and safety.

Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency, was created in 2009 and is still the most well-known today. Many people are interested in cryptocurrencies because they want to make money by trading them. However, at times, speculators push the prices of cryptocurrencies up.

How does Cryptocurrency Work?

Cryptocurrencies are based on the blockchain, a distributed public database that keeps track of all transactions and is updated by currency holders.

Cryptocurrency units are formed through a process known as mining, which entails employing computer processing power to solve complex mathematical problems to earn coins. Users can also buy the currencies from brokers, which they can then store and use in encrypted wallets to store and spend them.

You don’t possess anything concrete if you own cryptocurrency. Instead, you have a key that lets you move a record or a unit of measurement from one person to another without the help of a trusted third party.

Although Bitcoin has been present since 2009, cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies are still in their infancy in terms of financial applications, with more to come. Bonds, stocks, and other financial assets might all be traded via this technology in the future.

What is Cryptojacking?

Cryptojacking is a sort of cybercrime in which hackers utilize people’s gadgets (computers, cellphones, tablets, and even servers) to mine for bitcoin without their permission. Most cybercrime aims to make money. This type of threat is designed to stay completely out of the victim’s way. It is also a threat that infiltrates a computer or mobile device and then mines cryptocurrency with its resources. Cryptocurrency is digital or virtual money represented by tokens or “coins.” The most well-known cryptocurrency is Bitcoin, but there are over 3,000 others. While some cryptocurrencies have made their way into the real world through credit cards or other schemes, most of them stay in the virtual world.

Cryptocurrencies rely on a distributed database known as a “blockchain.” The blockchain is updated regularly with information on all transactions since the last update. A complicated mathematical procedure merges each batch of recent transactions into a “block.”

Cryptocurrencies rely on individuals to supply computing power to create new blocks. Cryptocurrencies are used to compensate people who provide computational power. “Miners” are those who trade computational resources for money.

To execute the necessary mathematical calculations, the more prominent cryptocurrencies employ teams of miners who use specialized computer rigs. Unfortunately, this activity necessitates a substantial quantity of electricity—the Bitcoin network consumes more than 73TWh per year.

Cryptojacking History

Cryptojacking initially came to light in September 2017, during the height of bitcoin’s popularity. Coinhive put a code on their website that was supposed to be a mining tool for website owners to earn money passively rather than through advertisements. On the other hand, Cybercriminals utilized it to embed their crypto mining scripts. As a result, Monero was mined using the computational resources of website visitors (cryptocurrency).

Types of Cryptojacking

There are a lot of ways that cryptojackers can mine for cryptocurrency. For example, they can download malware to run crypto-mining scripts, use cloud services, and steal IT infrastructure.

1. File-based Cryptojacking

Malware is downloaded to launch an executable file in file-based cryptojacking. This file disseminates a crypto mining script across the network. Malicious emails are one of the most prevalent ways to accomplish this.

An email is sent that includes a legitimate-looking attachment or link. When a user clicks on that attachment or link, a code executes on the computer, installing the crypto mining software. The script runs in the background without the user’s knowledge.

2. Browser-based Cryptojacking

Cryptojacking can potentially happen from inside a web browser. This type of assault leverages IT infrastructure to mine cryptocurrencies.

Hackers write a crypto mining script in a programming language and embed it on several websites. These dangerous scripts can be found in advertising and outdated and vulnerable WordPress plugins. The script can run independently and download the code to the user’s machine.

Cryptojacking can also be carried out as part of a supply chain assault in which crypto mining code is compromised using JavaScript libraries.

3. Cloud Cryptojacking

In cloud cryptojacking, hackers scour an organization’s files and code for API keys to get access to its cloud services. Then they use up all of your CPU resources for crypto mining, causing your account charges to skyrocket. Cryptojacking’s efforts to mine for money illegally speed up a lot.

The Future of Cryptojacking and Cryptojackers

That’s where cryptojacking comes in, for people who desire the benefits of bitcoin mining without the high cost. Cryptojacking allows hackers to mine for bitcoins without paying for expensive mining hardware or hefty electricity bills. Monero is the most popular cryptocurrency that can be mined on home computers. Thieves like it because it is hard to track.

According to certain experts, cryptojacking is either in free fall or on the increase. Cryptojacking rises in lockstep with the value of cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin and Monero. However, cryptojacking has been slowed in recent years by two factors:

  • Law enforcement crackdowns
  • The closure of Coinhive, which was the most popular platform for cryptominers, Coinhive provided websites with JavaScript code that allowed visitors’ computers to mine Monero. Hackers might insert a mining script into a website without the site owner’s knowledge, which was immediately exploited by Coinhive’s code. The site was shut down in March 2019, and the number of site infections dropped dramatically.

A cryptojacking attack is motivated by one thing; money. Mining cryptocurrencies can be quite profitable, but it’s difficult to make a profit without the resources to pay for large expenditures. Cryptojacking is a type of cryptomining that is illegal and very efficient and cheap. It allows people to mine valuable coins in a criminal and very efficient and cheap way.

How does Cryptojacking Work?

Cryptojacking software is installed on devices by cybercriminals. The software mines for bitcoins or steals cryptocurrency wallets in the background. The unwitting victims usually continue to use their devices, but they may experience slower performance or lags.

Hackers have two main methods for discreetly mining bitcoins on a victim’s device:

  • By getting the victim to click on a malicious link in an email that loads cryptomining code on the computer
  • Infecting a website or online ad with JavaScript code that activates when the victim’s browser is opened.

To maximize their profit, hackers frequently employ both tactics. The cryptojacking script is installed on the device in both circumstances, and it runs in the background while the victim works. Regardless of how the script is used, it runs complicated math problems on the victims’ computers and sends the answers to a hacker-controlled server.

Cryptojacking scripts, unlike other varieties of malware, do not harm computers or the data of their victims. They do, however, take computer processing resources. As a result, slower computer performance may be a nuisance for some people. On the other hand, cryptojacking is a problem for businesses since companies with many cryptojacked systems pay high costs. Consider the following scenario:

  • The use of help desk and IT resources to look into performance issues and replace parts or systems in the hope that this will solve the problem.
  • The cost of electricity has risen.

Some cryptomining scripts feature worming capabilities, allowing them to infect other networked devices and servers. This makes them more difficult to detect and eliminate. These scripts may also check to determine if the device has previously been infected with cryptomining malware from other sources. If the script detects another cryptominer, it disables it.

Some online publishers attempted to monetize their traffic by demanding visitors’ permission to mine for cryptocurrencies while on their site in the early days of cryptomining. They framed it as a fair trade: visitors would get free content for the sites mining their computers. On gaming websites, for example, users may stay on the page for an extended period while the JavaScript code mines for coins. The cryptomining would then stop when they left the site. This strategy can succeed if the sites are open about their activities. The challenge for users is to determine whether or not websites are being truthful.

Cryptojacking is a malicious cryptomining that doesn’t ask for permission and continues to run long after you leave the original site. This is a tactic used by owners of shady websites or hackers who have infiltrated genuine websites. Users have no awareness that a website they visited has been mining cryptocurrency on their machine. The code only consumes a small amount of system resources to go unnoticed. Despite the user’s belief that the visible browser windows are closed, a hidden one remains active. A pop-under, sized to fit beneath the taskbar or behind the clock, is frequently used.

Cryptojacking can infect Android mobile devices using the same methods to infect desktop computers. A Trojan disguised in a downloaded app is used in some assaults. Users’ phones may also be forwarded to an infected website, resulting in a persistent pop-under. Despite the fact that each phone has limited processing power, when attacks are done in large groups, the cryptojackers’ efforts are justified.

Real-world Cryptojacking Examples

When it comes to designing strategies to obtain access to other people’s computers for crypto mining, cryptojackers can be very smart. The majority of ways come from other types of malware, such as ransomware or adware. Here are a few real-life examples:

  1. The Prometei cryptocurrency botnet exploited a Microsoft Exchange vulnerability.

The Prometei botnet is a multi-stage, modular botnet that mines the Monero cryptocurrency. Cybereason revealed the botnet was abusing Microsoft Exchange vulnerabilities in early 2021. It mined Monero with the infected devices.

2. Windows credentials stolen by spear-fishing PowerGhost

PowerGhost first gains access to a machine by spear-phishing then steals Windows credentials and spreads using the EternalBlue attack and Windows Management Instrumentation. The antivirus software, as well as competing crypto miners, are then disabled.

3. Using containers to spread Graboid

Graboid is the first known crypto mining worm, as it is a cryptojacking botnet with self-spreading characteristics. It spreads by discovering Docker Engine deployments open to the internet without authentication. Graboid is thought to have infected over 2,000 deployments.

4. Monero mined by fraudulent Docker Hub accounts.

In June 2020, a cryptojacking technique was uncovered that exploits Docker images on the Docker Hub network to deliver crypto mining software to victims’ devices. This strategy helps prevent detection. Incredibly, more than two million people looked at these contaminated photos, and the money they made from them was estimated to be about $36,000.

5. MinerGate variation

An unusual strain of the MinerGate malware family has exhibited an unusual trait. It can detect mouse movements and suspend mining activity. In this way, the victims don’t have to be told to stop if their performance drops quickly.

6. BadShell utilizes Windows processes.

Comodo Cybersecurity discovered malware on a client’s system that mined cryptocurrency using legitimate Windows processes. BadShell makes use of:

  • A PowerShell script to inject malware into an already running process
  • Use a Task Scheduler to help you stay on track.
  • A registry where the malware’s binary code is stored
  • A rogue employee is hijacking company systems.

On its systems, a European bank noticed some strange traffic patterns. The procedures during the night were slow, and the diagnostic instruments failed to discover anything unusual. Then, in a real-life data center check, a crypto mining device was found hidden under the floorboards. It had been set up by an employee who was not supposed to be there.

7. Using GitHub to mine cryptocurrency

Cryptojackers were hosting crypto-mining malware on GitHub:

  1. They make forks of valid projects they come across.
  2. They hide the malware in the forked project’s directory structure.
  3. Using a phishing scam, the cryptojackers deceive users into installing the software.

8. Exploiting the rTorrent flaw

An rTorrent misconfiguration vulnerability was identified by cryptojackers. As a result, certain rTorrent clients were exposed without authentication for XML-RPC connections. Additionally, a Monero crypto miner is installed on these clients when targeted.

9. Facexworm: A dangerous Chrome add-on.

Facexworm is a browser plugin for Google Chrome. It uses Facebook Messenger to infect victims’ computers. Initially, it was used to deliver adware. Later, it began delivering crypto-mining code to bitcoin exchanges. Infected Facebook accounts are still being used to spread malicious links. It can also get web accounts and passwords, allowing the cryptojacking code to be put into web pages.

10. The scorched-earth policy

This fast-spreading spyware, known as WinstarNssmMiner, crashes the machines of everyone who tries to remove it: It does it by first launching a svchost.exe process and injecting a piece of code into it. Next, it changes the CriticalProcess attribute of the generated process. Then, because the computer considers the process critical, it crashes when it is disabled.

11. CoinMiner destroying competitors

Hackers create malware that looks for and kills crypto miners already running on the systems they infect. One example is CoinMiner. On Windows computers, it seems for an AMDDriver64 process. Within the virus are two lists, $malwares, and $malwares2, which include the process names of other crypto miners. CoinMiner then terminates these processes.

12. Compromised MikroTik routers spread cryptominers

Over 80 cryptojacking attacks targeted MikroTik routers, compromising a substantial number of devices. These campaigns took advantage of a known vulnerability, CVE-2018-14847, for which MikroTik has released a fix. The criminals have extensive access to target systems since MikroTik sells carrier-grade routers.

The Rise of Cryptojacking and Its Consequences

Cryptojacking is slowly but steadily becoming a major global issue. Cybercriminals have been striving to obtain access to computer systems with the least risk and effort to make money. Every day, hackers come up with new ways to steal computer resources and mine cryptocurrencies.

Hackers have discovered a way to implant cryptojacking malware in YouTube videos. This simplifies dupe users into running crypto mining scripts by tricking them into clicking on them.

You might be wondering how a phone with little processing power might be useful. When a large number of smartphones are involved, however, it becomes worthwhile for cryptojackers to pay attention. Some cryptojacking scripts, unlike other varieties of malware, do not destroy computers or the data of their victims, according to some cybersecurity experts. It does, however, have implications that harm the victim’s computer or device’s functioning.

On the contrary, real expenses translate into IT labor costs, electricity costs, missed opportunities, and more when larger enterprises are engaged rather than an individual victim of a drive-by cryptojacking.

Cryptojacking is becoming more prevalent as the attacks’ software becomes easier to deploy and detect. It doesn’t even necessitate any significant technical knowledge. On the dark web, ready-made software programs are now widely available. The crypto mining code starts to run in the background of an infected computer for a long time without anyone noticing.

Cryptojacking makes it hard to find out who the hacker is, even if they are caught. By then, the hackers will have spent their digital money, which will hurt the company financially through system damage.

How to detect cryptojacking

Cryptojacking is difficult to detect since it is frequently hidden or disguised as benign activity on your system. However, there are three warning signs to be aware of:

Three things to look out for when it comes to cryptojacking detection:

1. A drop in performance

Reduced performance on your computing devices is one of the most common signs of cryptojacking. Slower systems are often the first sign of trouble, so keep an eye out if your device is running slowly, crashing, or performing poorly. Another possible indicator is if your battery is draining faster than usual.

2. Overheating Time-consuming

Overheating Time-consuming processes like cryptojacking can cause computing devices to overheat. This can damage computers or reduce their lifespan. Suppose your laptop or computer’s fan is running faster than usual. In that case, it’s possible that a cryptojacking script or website is causing the device to overheat, and the fan is running to prevent the device from melting or catching fire.

3. Use of the Central Processing Unit (CPU):

An increase in CPU usage when you visit a website with little or no media content could indicate the presence of cryptojacking scripts. Checking your device’s central processing unit (CPU) usage with the Activity Monitor or Task Manager is an excellent cryptojacking test. However, keep in mind that some processes may disguise themselves as something legitimate to prevent you from stopping the abuse. Furthermore, when your computer is running at total capacity, it will run very slowly, making it more difficult to figure out what’s wrong.

How to Protect yourself against Cryptojacking

  1. Make good use of a cybersecurity program:

A comprehensive cybersecurity program like Kaspersky Total Security can detect threats across the board and protect against cryptojacking malware. It is much better to install security before becoming a victim, with all other malware precautions and installing the most recent software updates and patches for your operating system and all applications, particularly for web browsers.

2. Keep an eye on the most recent cryptojacking trends

Cybercriminals are constantly changing code and devising new delivery methods to update your computer system scripts. Being proactive and staying up-to-date on the latest cybersecurity threats can aid in the detection of cryptojacking on your network and devices and the avoidance of other types of cybersecurity threats.

3. Install cryptojacking-blocking browser extensions.

Web browsers are frequently used to deploy cryptojacking scripts. You can use specialized browser extensions like miner block, No Coin, and Anti Miner to block cryptojackers across the web. They can be installed as browser extensions on a number of popular browsers.

4. Ad blockers should be used

Because cryptojacking scripts are frequently delivered via online advertisements, using an ad blocker to prevent them can be very effective. Ad Blocker Plus, for example, can both detect and block malicious cryptojacking codes.

5. JavaScript should be disabled

Disabling JavaScript can protect your computer from cryptojacking malware when browsing the web. However, even though this stops drive-by cryptojacking, it may also prevent you from using the functions you need.

6. Block websites that are known to distribute cryptojacking scripts:

To avoid cryptojacking while visiting websites, make sure each one is on a whitelist that has been thoroughly vetted. Of course, you can also block known cryptojacking sites, but this may leave your device or network vulnerable to new cryptojacking pages.

Cryptojacking may appear to be a relatively innocuous crime because the only thing “stolen” is the victim’s computer’s power. However, using computing power for this criminal purpose is done without the victim’s knowledge or consent to benefit criminals who are creating currency illegally. Follow good cybersecurity practices and install trusted cybersecurity or internet security on all of your devices to lessen the chances of getting into trouble.

Conclusion

Although the consequences of a cryptojacking attack may be limited to a drop in performance, don’t be fooled. Cryptojacking is being used by cybercriminals looking for a way to make a consistent profit. So this is a wake-up call to step up your device security.

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