Malicious cryptominers can infiltrate devices via web browser downloads or illegitimate mobile apps, exploiting desktops, laptops, smartphones, and network servers. The aim is profit, and it operates surreptitiously, remaining undetected by the user.


What is Cryptojacking?

Cryptojacking is a cyberattack that illegally harnesses a target's computing power to mine cryptocurrency for the hacker. Malware variants slow down infected computers, while the hacker injects cryptojacking software into victims' devices during coin mining or to steal crypto from cryptocurrency wallets.

This can be done through a malicious link in a phishing email, or by inserting JavaScript code into a website or online advertisement that automatically runs when loaded by the victim's browser.

Regardless of the technique, the script executes complicated mathematical operations on the victim's computer and transmits the results to a server under the hacker's control without compromising the device's data, but they do steal processing power from computers. The script can cause slow computer performance, high electricity charges, and IT maintenance costs for businesses.

Android mobile devices can also be exploited through a Trojan horse virus or redirecting users to infected websites. Initially, cryptojackers used JavaScript code to mine the cryptocurrency while providing free content to users, but malicious cryptojacking is now undertaken through compromised legitimate sites and remains undetected by users.

While it may appear harmless, cryptojacking is a crime that utilizes a victim's computer power without their consent or knowledge for the illicit creation of currency, which benefits the criminal. As more devices become infected, cybercriminals see it as a lucrative crime due to the huge amount of cryptocurrency generated.

While the primary impact of cryptojacking is related to performance, it can also increase costs for affected individuals and businesses due to the high levels of electricity and computing power required for coin mining.

Why Do Some Miners Engage in Cryptojacking?

Mining for cryptocurrency is a legitimate activity that requires significant electricity and expensive mining network nodes. As cryptocurrencies reach their market cap, the supply of coins that can be mined decreases, making it more difficult and expensive.

Additionally, mining competition and high electricity costs can make the cost of mining exceed the profits. This has led some individuals to engage in cryptojacking, a process where they use victims' computing resources to mine cryptocurrency, offloading the expenses onto others.

While cryptojacking is designed to be undetectable, it can cause damage to devices over time due to its high processing demands, leading to poor performance, high electricity bills, and shorter device lifespans.

Cryptojacking is unlike other types of malware in that it does not typically harm a victim's device or data. It is often delivered through scripts that run in the background without requiring downloads, making it difficult for victims to detect. As a result, many only become aware of the attack when they notice significant decreases in device performance or unusually high energy bills.

Threat actors prefer cryptojacking because it generates consistent income with less risk than other forms of malware, such as ransomware. Ransomware relies on the victim paying a ransom and has a low success rate. Additionally, ransomware carries a higher risk of being caught. In contrast, cryptojacking is a continuous source of income with a lower risk of detection.

Cryptojacking Methods

Cryptojacking attacks use mainly three methods: file-based, browser-based, and cloud cryptojacking.

  • File-based cryptojacking involves downloading a corrupted file containing an infected script that starts mining without the target's knowledge.
  • In browser-based cryptojacking, a malicious script is embedded in web pages, and when the target visits an infected URL, the script is automatically downloaded and starts mining.
  • Cloud cryptojacking enables hackers to access an organization's cloud platform and related services to consume CPU resources at a large scale, leading to excess resource consumption and operational costs.

Detecting Cryptojacking

Cryptojacking is meant to go undetected, but there are some symptoms to look out for:

  • Poor performance, such as slow running devices or sudden crashes due to excessive processing power being used.
  • Overheating can also occur, leading to damaged or shorter lifespan of the device.
  • High electricity costs are a sign of the attack, as coin mining draws significant electricity.
  • An increase in central processing unit (CPU) use may also indicate a cryptojacking attack, but it can be difficult to detect as the malware may be hidden as legitimate processes.

Protecting Yourself from Cryptojacking: Tips and Strategies

Use a Good Cybersecurity Program - The first and most important step you can take to protect yourself from cryptojacking is to use a comprehensive cybersecurity program. It is important to install security software before you become a victim to avoid the potential damage caused by cryptojacking.

Be Alert to the Latest Cryptojacking Trends - Cybercriminals are constantly coming up with new delivery methods and modifying code to embed updated scripts onto your computer system. Being proactive and staying on top of the latest cybersecurity threats can help you detect cryptojacking on your network and devices, as well as avoid other types of cybersecurity threats. Stay informed and keep up-to-date with the latest developments in cybersecurity.

Use Browser Extensions Designed to Block Cryptojacking - Cryptojacking scripts are often deployed in web browsers, making browser extensions an effective tool to block them. MinerBlock, No Coin, and Anti Miner are examples of browser extensions that can block cryptojackers across the web. They install as extensions in some popular browsers and can prevent malicious code from running on your system.

Use Ad Blockers - Since cryptojacking scripts are often delivered through online ads, installing an ad blocker can be an effective means of stopping them. This method can prevent cryptojacking scripts from running on your system and save you from potential damage.

Disable JavaScript - Disabling JavaScript can also prevent cryptojacking code from infecting your computer when browsing online. This method can interrupt drive-by cryptojacking, but it could also block you from using functions that you need. Keep in mind that some websites require JavaScript to function properly.

Block Pages Known to Deliver Cryptojacking Scripts - To prevent cryptojacking while visiting websites, make sure each site you visit is on a carefully vetted whitelist. You can also blacklist sites known for cryptojacking, but this may still leave your device or network exposed to new cryptojacking pages. Keep a list of trusted websites and make sure to only visit them to minimize the risks of cryptojacking.

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