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HomeWhat is Cryptojacking? Detection and Preventions TechniquesTech UpdatesWhat is Cryptojacking? Detection and Preventions Techniques

What is Cryptojacking? Detection and Preventions Techniques

Last updated on October 19th, 2023 at 07:06 pm

Cybercriminals can quickly wreak havoc on your company in today’s digital world. Cryptojacking is one of the most current and effective methods for doing this. 

Cybercriminals can break into your computer, commit misdeeds on your behalf, and crash your system with as little as a malicious link.

To protect your company, as a company owner, you must be wholly informed about cryptojacking. The details of cryptojacking are discussed in this article. To stop it, find it, and recoup from it.

What is Cryptojacking?

There are two ways to acquire Cryptocurrency: buying and mining. Utilizing cryptocurrency exchanges like Coinbase and Binance, one can purchase Cryptocurrency. 

However, by resolving a mathematical puzzle, miners can receive Cryptocurrency as payment for participating in the cryptocurrency mining process.

Since the last update, the digital database has been continually updated with information from each transaction because cryptocurrencies use a distributed ledger known as the blockchain. 

When individuals known as miners contribute computer power in exchange for rewards, blocks are created.

However, because mining consumes a lot of electricity and requires expensive equipment, hackers worldwide try to use malicious scripts to obtain Cryptocurrency for free. 

The term “cryptojacking,” which combines the words “cryptocurrency” and “hijacking,” is used to describe this kind of cybercrime.

The different forms of cryptojacking, how they operate, and how to spot and stop malicious crypto mining are all covered in this article.

How Cryptojacking Began And Why Cybercriminals Are Using It Increasingly?

When Cryptocurrency was at its highest in value, in September 2017, cryptojacking first appeared. 

The code published on the official site of the business Coinhive, which went out of business in early 2019, was intended to be a cryptomining tool for site owners to earn money passively as an alternative to running advertisements on their site. 

On the other hand, cybercriminals discovered that they could embed their cryptomining scripts using this code. 

Utilizing website visitors’ computing power, they succeeded in mining for the Cryptocurrency Monero, which has since been linked to additional cryptojacking investigations.

The Various Types Of Cryptojacking

Cryptojacking uses three main methods to mine cryptocurrencies: malware to execute cryptomining scripts, steal cloud resources, and compromise IT systems.

File-Based Cryptojacking

In file-based cryptojacking, malicious emails are used to gain access to a computer’s infrastructure. 

Executable files downloadable by clicking on the recipients are included in these emails. 

Hackers may pose as a legitimate organization, like a bank, in their messages to customers, asking them to download attachments disguised as invoices or bank statements. 

After downloading, the scripts quietly mine Cryptocurrency in the background while no one is aware of it.

Browser-Based Cryptojacking

Common browsers like Mozilla, Safari, Google Chrome, and others are susceptible to browser-based cryptojacking. 

Hackers write a cryptomining script using programmable language. 

In addition to being embedded directly into websites accessed using the malicious browser, these ads and outdated WordPress plugins are also used.

Cloud Cryptojacking

Although cloud services are harder to take over, they can still be compromised. 

Attackers typically look through an organization’s code or files in the hopes of discovering the API keys that require access to the cloud service. 

They can then use CPU power to mine Cryptocurrency, resulting in significant power supply and computer power rises.

How Is Cryptojacking Carried Out?

A prohibited method of cryptomining is called cryptojacking. 

Cryptomining is the process of creating new Cryptocurrency, a kind of digital currency generated and encrypted on the blockchain record-keeping technology, in plain English.

Before a transaction on the blockchain can be authenticated and completed, it must first solve a challenging mathematical puzzle. 

Cryptocurrency miners crack the codes, approve the transaction, and receive Cryptocurrency in exchange. 

The blockchain can only be used to generate and encrypt new coins through the cryptomining process.

When a victim engages in cryptojacking, their computer is used to carry out the complex mathematical operations required to mine for Cryptocurrency and transmit the outputs to the cryptojacker’s server. 

Cryptojacking is created to manipulate its victims’ resources for as long as possible without even being noticed, in contrast to some types of malware that harm victims’ devices or data. 

Cryptojackers target numerous victims while only using a small portion of each victim’s processing power. 

The malware quietly diverts victims’ computing capability to unauthorized cryptomining tasks while running in the background.

Host-based and web browsers are the two primary attack methods used by cryptojackers. 

Attacks using web browsers place cryptomining tools on a website that launches when a victim accesses it. 

Malware is downloaded onto the victim’s device during host-based attacks.

The following steps are involved in these attack strategies:‍

  • Writing a script:  A miner creates a cryptomining script to infect a computer or other device.
  • Infecting a script:  When a victim clicks on a link and unintentionally downloads cryptomining software, the site is infected, or their device is compromised.
  • Attack:  Once the cryptomining script has been run, cryptomining software starts to use the victim’s computing power. The amount of power sent from the targeted machine to the illegal mining operation is under the cybercriminal’s control.

Examples of Cryptojacking

Coinhive

Despite being out of business, Coinhive is still essential to consider because it was crucial in the development of the cryptojacking attack. 

A Javascript file was loaded onto users’ pages by Coinhive when it was served from a web browser. 

Before its operators shut it down because of a decline in hash rate following a Monero fork and a decline in the cryptocurrency market, which made cryptojacking less profitable, Coinhive was the most popular cryptojacking script.

WannaMine v4.0

WannaMine v4.0 and earlier malware versions use the EternalBlue exploit to infect hosts. 

A directory on C:Windows called “Network Distribution” keeps the EternalBlue exploit binaries. 

Based on a hard-coded list of strings, this version of WannaMine generates a.dll and service names at random. In this manner, it keeps its hold on the host.

BadShell

A malware called BadShell does not require a download and is fileless. 

Because it makes use of native Windows processes like Task Scheduler, PowerShell, and Registry, it is particularly challenging to identify. 

Although file-less malware attacks do not require the installation of any code, access to the environment is still necessary for cryptojackers to modify the environment’s native tools to their advantage.

Facexworm

FaceXWorm tricks Facebook Messenger users into clicking on a fake YouTube link by using social engineering. 

To view the content, the fake web page requests that the user download a Chrome extension, but in reality, this extension uses the victims’ Facebook accounts to propagate the link among their friend networks. 

FaceXWorm reroutes visitors who try to go to open cryptocurrency exchange platforms to fake platforms that require a limited number of bitcoins as part of the identity verification process, in addition to hijacking users’ systems to mine Cryptocurrency. 

It also intercepts login information when users attempt to sign into particular websites, such as Google and MyMonero. 

It also intercepts users’ attempts to log into specific sites, such as MyMonero, and Google, and redirects users to other malicious sites.

Cryptojacking is Different from Malware

Cryptojacking, unlike other types of malware, is not intended to harm a victim’s computer or data. 

Most threat actors prefer scripts that run covertly in the background, and several delivery methods do not necessarily involve downloads. 

As a result, most victims are often unaware that their systems have been compromised. 

Victims often become aware that their systems have been compromised after experiencing significant slowdowns on previously reliable machines or realizing that their energy costs are unusually high.

Cryptojacking’s popularity within and between threat actors primarily offers a more steady income at a much lower risk. 

Threat actors often view Cryptojacking as a less expensive and more advantageous alternative to ransomware.

In contrast to ransomware, which only makes money if the victim pays and is a one-time operation, cryptojacking continuously makes money. 

Additionally, it’s thought that hackers only succeed in getting victims to pay money to recover infected computers three per cent of the time. 

In comparison to other attacks, it also carries a noticeably higher risk of being detected. With cryptojacking, that is frequently not the case.

Who Is More Likely to be The Target of Cryptojacking Crimes?

Recent research indicates that despite a significant reduction in the value of cryptocurrencies, there were 66.7 million cryptojacking attacks in the first quarter of 2022, a 30% increase over the same period in the previous year. 

Additionally, due to their size, threat actors prefer to target businesses.

Since servers have an enormously higher processing power than a person’s laptop or desktop PC, servers are in high demand.

Hackers attempt to break into enterprise networks and then move laterally within those systems to infect as many computers as they can without being noticed. 

The method of access can depend significantly on the threat actor. 

Some people may use social engineering strategies to trick workers into clicking a malicious link and starting a script. 

Others may perform a network scan on a target to determine whether any deployed resources are vulnerable to flaws like Log4Shell, and then take advantage of those flaws. 

In order to compromise an organization, they might carry out a software supply chain attack in which they tamper with the open-source software that is included in their products.

Cryptojacking: Detection

Cryptojacking has the potential to completely sabotage your business. The systems that have been compromised on your network may be challenging to identify. 

You and your IT team need to be very vigilant because the coding used in cryptomining scripts can easily elude detection.

The following methods can be used to spot cryptojacking when it’s too late:

A Drop in Performance

Your electronic devices’ performance deteriorating is one of the most typical indications of cryptojacking. 

This includes desktop and laptop computers, tablets, and mobile phones. 

Train your staff to notify IT of any decline in processing speed as soon as they notice it. Sluggish systems could be the first sign of cryptomining.

Overheating

Computing devices may overheat due to the cryptojacking technique’s resource-intensive nature. 

This may shorten the lifespan of computers or harm them. Another issue with overheated equipment is fans that run longer than required in an effort to cool the system.

Examine CPU Usage

For personal computers, you can either track and analyze CPU usage yourself or with the help of your IT team. 

The Task Manager or Activity Monitor can be used to achieve this. When visitors are on a website with little to no media content, a spike in CPU usage may indicate that cryptomining scripts are in use.

Pay Attention to Your Websites

Criminals are looking for online sites where they can insert code for cryptomining. 

Keep an eye out for updates to web server files or web pages on your websites. This early detection can prevent cryptojacking on your systems.

Frequent Battery Drainage

A compromised device’s battery typically discharges quickly.

Scanning for Malware

Similar to scripts used for cryptojacking, cryptomining malware uses up system resources. 

Computers can become infected with malware like CryptoLocker, which can encrypt files and demand a Bitcoin ransom. 

To help you find these malicious programs, run a malware scan on your security software. You can also make use of tools like PowerShell to spot a cryptojacking attack.

Cryptojacking: Prevention Tips

Although it can be challenging to determine if your computer has been affected by cryptojacking, there are some steps you can take to stop these attacks and safeguard your computer, networking systems, and crypto-assets:

Train Your IT Staff

IT personnel should know how to recognize and comprehend cryptojacking. 

They must recognize any early indications of an attack and be ready to act quickly and conduct additional research.

Educate Your Employees

IT departments rely on employees to notify them when computers overheat or run slowly. 

Employees need to understand cyber security, be aware of links or attachments in emails that might contain cryptojacking code, and know to only download from trusted links.

Use Anti-Cryptomining Extensions

Typically, cryptojacking scripts are installed in web browsers. 

Use browser add-ons like minerBlock, Anti Minder, and No Coin to block cryptominers online.

Use AD Blockers

Ad blockers restrict cryptojacking scripts that are frequently included in web advertisements. 

To stop and identify malicious cryptocurrency mining code, use an ad blocker.

Turn Off JavaScript

While online, turn off JavaScript to stop computer systems at your company from getting infected with cryptojacking software. 

Remember that disabling JavaScript will prevent you from using some functions while browsing.

Harden and Patch Servers 

Cryptojackers frequently search for vulnerable older servers that are publicly accessible as the “lowest hanging fruit” so they can stealthily take advantage of it. 

Basic server hardening, such as patching, limiting external footprints and disabling unused features or services, can help limit server-based cryptojacking attacks.

Find Cloud Configuration Erors

One of the most effective ways for businesses to prevent cryptojacking in the cloud is to tighten cloud and container configurations. 

This entails identifying unprotected cloud services and exposure to the public internet, identifying exposed API servers, and removing login information and other secrets that are hardcoded into applications and stored in developer environments.

Use Strong Endpoint Protection

The basis of this is employing endpoint security solution protection and anti-malware that can identify cryptominers, as well as maintaining current web filters and managing browser extensions to reduce browser-based risk cryptoscripts from implementation. 

Ideal endpoint protection platforms for organizations should be able to reach servers and beyond.

Closing the tab as quickly as anything seems fishy is how you should act with the cryptojacking script while you’re online working. 

As soon as the malicious URL has been blocked, check that your web filtering software is up to date. 

If not, immediately update it. Update all browser extensions, and eliminate any malicious or no longer necessary ones. 

Cryptojackers would be unable to hijack you if you kept your eyes and ears open, and your Cryptocurrency would be in safe hands.

Best Practices For Cybersecurity

Cryptojacking can usually be prevented if you:‍

  • Avoid visiting unencrypted websites.
  • Avoid visiting websites that warn you not to keep browsing because it’s dangerous
  • Update your antivirus software frequently.
  • Never click on any click-bait like “Get this free now” or “Download and win.”
  • Beware of downloading attachments coming from an unknown sender.
  • Only download tools or extensions from trusted providers.
  • For mobile users, ensure you download apps from Play Store and Apple App Store.

Key Takeaways

Cryptojacking has a financial motivation, just like other types of cybercrime. 

Unlike most threats, however, the victim is designed to remain undetected. 

A minimal amount of system resources are used by the cryptojacking code so that users won’t notice. 

As a result, it’s critical to exercise caution and be alert whenever something goes wrong with your system because the only observable symptom of cryptojacking is sluggish performance or execution.

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