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What Are Effective Security Measures to Prevent and Detect Cryptojacking?

Cryptojacking represents a cybersecurity threat where attackers exploit computing resources for unauthorized cryptocurrency mining, emphasizing the need for vigilance and security measures to prevent and detect such attacks.

Cryptojackers seek the benefits of cryptocurrency mining without the associated costs. By avoiding expensive hardware and electricity bills, they mine for cryptocurrency without the financial burden. Monero is a popular choice among cryptojackers due to its privacy features.

The prevalence of cryptojacking has fluctuated, often tied to the value of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Monero. Recent crackdowns by law enforcement and the shutdown of Coinhive, a platform used for crypto mining, have dampened cryptojacking. However, the motivation behind cryptojacking remains clear: profit. It offers an illicit yet cost-effective method of mining valuable coins.

Related Terms

  • Cryptocurrencies operate on a decentralized ledger called the blockchain. This digital database continually updates with transaction data, and miners play a vital role in this system. They contribute computing power to create new blocks on the blockchain and are compensated for their efforts.
  • Mining, however, comes with substantial resource demands, including electricity and costly equipment. Cyber attackers deploy malicious scripts to mine cryptocurrency without any upfront investment to bypass these expenses. This illicit practice is known as cryptojacking, a term formed by merging “cryptocurrency” and “hijacking.”
  • Cryptojacking entails a threat that infiltrates a computer or mobile device, utilizing its resources for cryptocurrency mining. Cryptocurrency, represented as digital tokens or “coins,” includes well-known forms like Bitcoin and thousands of others. These digital currencies operate through blockchain technology, a distributed database that records all transactions through complex mathematical processes.
  • To create new blocks on the blockchain, cryptocurrencies rely on individuals who provide computing power, known as “miners.” Larger cryptocurrencies employ dedicated computer rigs run by mining teams. This energy-intensive activity consumes a significant amount of electricity.

How Cryptojacking Works

Cryptojacking is a stealthy cybercrime involving injecting cryptojacking software into victims’ devices, either during cryptocurrency mining or stealing cryptocurrency from wallets. This malicious software can take various forms, infiltrating devices through cunning tactics.

One method involves sending a phishing email containing a malicious link. When the victim clicks on the link, a malicious crypto-mining code is quietly inserted into their device. Alternatively, cyber intruders can insert JavaScript code into a website or online ad. When the victim’s browser loads this compromised content, the code springs into action, installing the cryptojacking script without the user’s knowledge.

Regardless of the method, the script aims to perform complex mathematical operations on the victim’s computer. The results are then sent to a server controlled by the hacker, all while safeguarding the device’s data. However, the script siphons off processing power from the victim’s computer.

For some users, slower computer performance may be the only noticeable effect. However, businesses can face substantial costs, including high electricity bills and IT maintenance expenses. Furthermore, crypto-mining scripts can infect other computing resources, spreading like worms. These scripts may also scan for other crypto-mining malware and deactivate it if detected.

Initially, cryptojackers employed JavaScript code to mine cryptocurrency while offering free content to users. This tactic can be successful when websites are transparent about their operations. However, users often need help determining a website’s honesty.

Malicious cryptojacking takes a different approach, infiltrating legitimate sites and continuing its activities after users leave the website. Users must be aware that a website uses their computer to mine cryptocurrency. A hidden browser window operates discreetly, preventing detection by using system resources.

Cryptojacking isn’t limited to computers; it can target Android mobile devices, too. Cybercriminals may exploit these devices through Trojan horse viruses or redirecting users to infected websites. Trojan horse viruses impersonate trustworthy applications, gaining access to users’ systems through methods like phishing.

Methods Used in Cryptojacking Attacks

Cryptojacking attacks come in various forms, limited only by the creativity of cyber criminals. Here are some of the most common methods used today:

Endpoint Attacks

In the past, cryptojacking primarily targeted endpoints, such as desktops and laptops. Traditional cryptojacking malware found its way onto these devices through familiar means like fileless malware, phishing schemes, and embedded malicious scripts on websites and web applications.

Email-Based Attacks

One basic approach involves sending unsuspecting users a seemingly legitimate email that encourages them to click on a link. Clicking the link triggers code execution, which places a crypto-mining script on their computer. This script operates discreetly in the background and transmits results through a command and control (C2) infrastructure.

Website and Ad Injection

Another method is to inject a script into a website or an advertisement that appears on multiple websites. The script automatically executes when users visit these sites or encounter infected ads in their browsers. Importantly, no code is stored on the victims’ computers in this scenario.

While these traditional avenues for cryptojacking remain a concern, cybercriminals have evolved and adopted more sophisticated techniques to maximize their profits. Some of these advanced methods are described below.

Scanning for Vulnerable Servers and Network Devices in Cryptojacking

Cryptojackers are constantly looking for ways to increase their profits, and one of their strategies involves expanding their focus beyond individual computers to target servers, network devices, and even Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Among these, servers are particularly attractive targets. They tend to be more powerful than standard desktop computers and have become prime hunting grounds for attackers in 2022.

Attackers are actively scanning the internet for servers exposed to the public and with vulnerabilities, such as the widely known Log4J vulnerability. They exploit the flaw to gain access when they find such a vulnerable server. Once inside, they discreetly load crypto-mining software onto the compromised system, which then connects to the hacker’s servers. This allows them to mine cryptocurrency using the server’s resources.

Moreover, attackers often use the initially compromised server as a launching point to spread their crypto-jacking activities to other network devices within the same network. This lateral movement enables them to maximize their illicit mining operations.

Software Supply Chain Attacks: A Growing Threat

Recently, cybercriminals have been focusing their efforts on the software supply chain, using tactics that involve infiltrating open-source code repositories. They aim to inject malicious packages and libraries containing cryptojacking scripts directly into the code. 

This poses a significant threat because developers worldwide download these packages in large numbers, providing cybercriminals with two ways to expand their crypto-jacking operations rapidly.

Direct Targeting of Developer Systems: The malicious packages can be strategically designed to target the developers’ systems. Once developers unwittingly download and incorporate these packages into their projects, the hidden crypto-jacking scripts can hijack their resources for illicit crypto-mining. 

This includes the developer’s systems and the networks and cloud resources they are connected to. Essentially, the attacker gains control over a network of crypto mining resources.

Poisoning Software for End Users: Alternatively, cybercriminals can use these supply chain attacks to contaminate the software developers create. By injecting components into the software that execute crypto-mining scripts, they indirectly compromise the machines of the application’s end users. When users run the affected software, they unknowingly become part of the cryptojacking operation, as their machines are harnessed for mining cryptocurrency.

This approach allows cybercriminals to rapidly scale up their cryptojacking infrastructure, taking advantage of the widespread use of open-source code repositories. It highlights the evolving tactics attackers use to exploit unsuspecting victims, emphasizing the need for heightened cybersecurity measures to combat this growing threat.

Detecting Cryptojacking: 3 Key Signs to Watch For

Detecting cryptojacking can be challenging because this illicit activity is often concealed to resemble harmless operations on your device. However, here are three crucial indicators to remain vigilant about:

Decreased Performance

One of the primary red flags of cryptojacking is a noticeable decline in the performance of your computing devices. Sluggish systems are often the initial sign to watch out for. Be attentive to your device running slowly, experiencing frequent crashes, or displaying unusually poor performance. Additionally, if your device’s battery drains more rapidly than usual, this could be another potential indicator of cryptojacking.

Overheating

Cryptojacking is a resource-intensive process that can lead to overheating computing devices. Excessive heat can damage your computer and even shorten its lifespan. If your laptop or computer’s fan runs at a higher speed than usual, it could be a sign that a cryptojacking script or website is causing your device to heat up. The increased fan activity prevents potential damage from overheating, such as melting or fire.

Central Processing Unit (CPU) Usage

An increase in CPU usage when visiting a website with minimal or no media content may indicate the presence of cryptojacking scripts. To perform a basic cryptojacking test, check your device’s CPU usage using tools like Activity Monitor (for Mac) or Task Manager (for Windows). 

However, it’s essential to note that these processes might attempt to conceal themselves or masquerade as legitimate functions to hinder detection. Additionally, when your computer operates at maximum CPU capacity due to cryptojacking, it tends to run very slowly, making it more challenging to troubleshoot.

By remaining vigilant for these signs, you can increase your chances of detecting cryptojacking activities and taking appropriate measures to safeguard your device and data.

Protecting Yourself from Cryptojacking: Essential Measures

Utilize Robust Cybersecurity Software

Employ a comprehensive cybersecurity program to safeguard your devices. Such software can detect a wide range of threats, including cryptojacking malware. Installing security measures before falling victim is a proactive approach. Additionally, ensure you regularly update your operating system and applications, particularly web browsers, to patch vulnerabilities.

Stay Informed About Cryptojacking Trends

Cybercriminals constantly adapt their tactics, creating updated scripts and delivery methods for cryptojacking. Staying informed and proactive regarding the latest cybersecurity threats is crucial. This awareness lets you detect cryptojacking on your network and devices and defend against other cybersecurity risks.

Implement Browser Extensions to Block Cryptojacking

Cryptojacking scripts often infiltrate web browsers. You can enhance your protection by using specialized browser extensions to block cryptojackers on the web. Depending on your preferred browser, consider installing extensions like minerBlock, No Coin, or AntiMiner.

Leverage Ad Blockers

Since cryptojacking scripts can be delivered through online advertisements, installing an ad blocker effectively thwarts them. AdBlock Plus, for instance, not only detects but also blocks malicious cryptojacking code.

Consider Disabling JavaScript

Disabling JavaScript while browsing online can prevent crypto-jacking code from infecting your computer. However, it’s important to note that this action may also disrupt essential website functions, so exercise caution when using this method.

Block Known Cryptojacking Pages

To fortify your defenses against cryptojacking while visiting websites, ensure you exclusively visit sites from a carefully vetted whitelist. Alternatively, you can blacklist known cryptojacking sites, although this approach may not cover emerging cryptojacking threats.

Cryptojacking, although seemingly less harmful, involves the unauthorized use of your computer’s power for criminal gain. It’s essential to follow robust cybersecurity practices to minimize risks. Install trusted cybersecurity or internet security solutions on all your devices to ensure comprehensive protection.

Conclusion 

Cryptojacking poses a significant threat in the digital landscape, as cybercriminals exploit unsuspecting users’ devices and resources to mine cryptocurrency without consent. While it may seem like a victimless crime, the illicit use of computing power can lead to decreased device performance, increased energy costs, and potential security vulnerabilities.

To protect oneself from crypto-jacking, it is crucial to adopt proactive cybersecurity measures. This includes utilizing reliable cybersecurity software, staying informed about evolving cryptojacking trends and employing browser extensions and ad blockers designed to block cryptojacking scripts. Additionally, users can consider disabling JavaScript and carefully vetting websites they visit to minimize exposure to cryptojacking threats.

By implementing these strategies and remaining vigilant, individuals can safeguard their devices and resources from cryptojacking attacks, contributing to a safer digital environment for all users. It is essential to recognize that cryptojacking, while seemingly benign, is a violation of one’s computing resources and privacy, making proactive defense measures essential in today’s interconnected world.

FAQs

What is cryptojacking?

Cryptojacking is a cybercrime where malicious software is used to secretly harness a victim's computing power to mine cryptocurrency without their knowledge or consent.

How can I detect cryptojacking on my device?

Signs of cryptojacking include decreased performance, overheating, and increased CPU usage. Using antivirus software and browser extensions can help detect and prevent it.

What can I do to protect myself from crypto-jacking?

Protect yourself using robust cybersecurity software, staying informed about cryptojacking trends, using ad blockers, and disabling JavaScript when necessary.

Can cryptojacking harm my device?

If left unchecked, cryptojacking can lead to reduced device performance, increased energy consumption, and potential security vulnerabilities.

Why is cryptojacking considered a threat?

Cryptojacking may seem victimless, but it involves unauthorized use of computing resources, potentially causing financial and security risks for individuals and organizations.

Disclaimer. The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decisions.

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