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Cryptocurrency, Cyber Security, Featured

Has Cybersecurity Advanced Enough to Eliminate Cryptojacking at a Global Stage?

The rise in cryptocurrency awareness and adoption has involuntarily led to increased cyberattacks not only across digital asset exchanges but also supply chains and other networks across the globe. Cryptojacking which gained popularity in recent times allows hackers to extract device performances from unsuspecting owners for mining cryptocurrencies, often using auto-executable JavaScript code. Has modern cybersecurity progressed to a stage to offer effective resistance to this hard-to-trace cybercriminal activity? This article aims to find that out. 

What is Cryptojacking?

Cryptojacking, as explained above, refers to the unauthorized usage of other’s computers with an intention of mining cryptocurrencies. Hackers achieve this by tricking the victim to enter a malicious email link that places codes for crypto mining on the system. Other entry options include infected websites and online ads. Cryptojacking is untraceable most of the time- the only thing that may stand out is performance lags. A notable reason behind this is the fact that crypto mining hackers don’t prefer stealing their victims’ user data or assets, but opt for stealing their machine’s performance, which is often viewed as a mere annoyance. But, from an organizational perspective, cryptojacked devices can lead to a lot of IT expenditure and time.  

Also Read: Energy-Efficient Digital Asset: Crypto Mining Enters the Green League

How does Cryptojacking Function?

Cybercriminals that deploy tactics similar to phishing trick unsuspecting victims into opening apparently legitimate links secretly place auto-executable scripts that run in the background, mining cryptocurrencies. The other option features injecting scripts on websites or digital ads that proliferate to multiple websites. The script executes automatically when potential visitors enter the site, leaving no trace on the victim’s computers. The scripting codes solve complex mathematical puzzles(required for mining cryptocurrencies) utilizing the processing speed of the victim’s system and return the results to the hacker’s preferred server. 

Cybersecurity experts indicate hackers often utilize both cryptojacking tactics to get the maximum desired output from computer systems under their control. A majority of devices under the hacker’s control generate mining income through web browsers, while the rest utilize machine performance. Cryptomining scripts may also feature a kill-prevention mechanism. 

Multiple crytojacking scripts feature worming capabilities guaranteeing presence and persistence across a network. Worming allows hackers to infect other devices or servers within the network while magnifying the level of difficulty inc completely removing them. Certain crypto mining codes also download architecture-compatible implants of themselves across non-similar devices within the network.  

Also Read: 10 Cryptocurrencies to ‘Bear’ Through the Next three quarters of 2022

Steps to Detect Cryptojacking

Cryptojackers can disrupt business operations drawing computational performance from the machines for mining digital assets, that too for hackers. Furthermore, it is difficult to trace compromised systems as crypto mining scripts can bypass detection. Awareness and vigilance help in detecting anomalies stemming from cryptojacking, such as:

a) Reduced Performance

The most recognizable symptom of a system under cryptojacking influence is a decrease in computational performance. Cryptojackers can affect multiple devices including desktops/laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Employees must be trained to report any processing issues to the IT department without delay. \

b) Excessive Heating

Crypto mining is a resource-intensive process, and so is cryptojacking. Devices remotely utilized by hackers are prone to overheating issues making them susceptible to damage thereby decreasing their lifespan. 

c) Monitor CPU Usage

Organize regular checkups on system CPU usage by the IT teams. Personal computers may not require professional maintenance, but diligent periodic checkups should not be neglected. A surge in CPU usage while the system loads a website with low media content is a likely sign of crypto mining scripts running in the background. 

d) Check Your Websites 

HAckers keep searching for websites to implant their cryptojacking code. Make it a point to conduct thorough scans of your websites or other files across the server keeping a sharp lookout for changes. 

Notable Cryptojacking Examples

Cryptojackers have evolved their crypto mining scripts incorporating features from yesteryear’s malware. Several cryptojacking delivery methods are derived from ransomware or adware. Similar to conventional malware programmers, hackers are delivering components or modules consisting of crypto mining scripts rather than Trojans. 

 Prominent existing examples include:

  1. Promitei Crypto Botnet
  2. PowerGhost  spear-fishing malware
  3. Graboid self-spreading crypto-mining worm
  4. Misusing Docker Hubs for mining Monero
  5. MinerGate motion-detecting malware
  6. BadShell Windows overriding malware
  7. WinstarNssmMiner system-crashing cryptojacking script
  8. CoinMiner target-seeking malware.

Steps to Prevent Prevent Cryptojacking  

Modern cybersecurity solutions have come up with multiple ways to tackle the problems presented by cryptojacking malware. However, it is better to keep a preventive mindset for cost-cutting and optimized use of resources. Experts recommend the following steps:

a) Bring Cryptojacking to the Forefront

Awareness is the first step toward prevention. Ensure the concept and impact of cryptojacking are brought up and properly defined during security awareness training. The focus should be on hackers’ phishing attempts to deploy and execute scripts on the user’s computers.

b) Install Browser Extensions for ad-blocking and/or anti-crypto mining

Browser extensions like No Coin or MinerBlock were programmed for the detection and prevention of crypto mining scripts from running on system devices. A significant portion of crypto mining scripts is sent through web ads. Hence, advanced adblocker extensions can help prevent unauthorized crypto mining. 

c) Opt for Endpoint Protection Solutions that Detect Crypto Mining

Antivirus software solutions can detect known crypto mining scripts and offer suitable protection against them. Miners do change techniques to avoid detection, but the ones that don’t, get caught. 

d) Update and Monitor Web Filtering Tools and Browser Extensions

Block user access to web pages that are known to harbor crypto mining scripts. Also, keep in mind that hackers can develop new browser extensions or inject existing extensions for crypto mining script execution. Maintain a timely checking routine. 

Wrapping Up

Recent progress in cybersecurity has made it possible to detect cryptojacking attempts. However, awareness and a routine check regimen are essential to prevent crypto mining from affecting business system operations.

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