Here’s everything you need to know about cryptojacking, how to detect an attack, and how you can keep yourself safe.
The term «this is a digital world» is now in 2020 more accurate than ever before. Businesses and individuals conduct most, if not all of their online financial transactions, including shopping and banking. Cryptocurrencies fit right into these digital transactions by acting like a virtual currency that is secured with cryptography.
With the growing popularity of cryptocurrencies, people have witnessed the emergence of cryptojacking, the unauthorized use of computing power to mine these currencies. But how serious is the threat of cryptojacking?
What is cryptojacking?
While Bitcoin, which is capped at 21 million in total, is the most famous of all cryptocurrencies, there are currently over 2,995 other currencies available.
Cryptojacking attacks allow hackers to harness the computing power of unsuspecting victims so that they can mine cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. After hacking both business and personal computers and other devices to install malware and malicious code, the computing power of the device is used to run the cryptomining script in the background. After mining, the currency goes into the hacker’s digital wallet.
Difficult to detect and pose little risk to hackers, cryptojacking is on the rise as cybercriminals continually come up with new ways to steal computer resources so they can mine cryptocurrency.
How cryptojacking works
Cryptojackers use several methods of infecting computing devices and mining currencies. Knowing these methods can lead to early detection of cryptojacking on your computer:
The classic way for cybercriminals to install malicious code on your computer is through an email attack. To build trust, email often looks like it comes from a company that the user recognizes and is familiar with, such as a banking institution. By sending an email containing an attachment or link that looks legitimate, hackers expect you to click on the link and download the cryptomining code.
Cryptojacking through websites
Another way that hackers can run cryptomining code on your computer without your knowledge is by writing a script and embedding it on websites. The script is embedded in WordPress ads and plugins that have not been updated recently. When you visit a compromised site and click on an ad or plugin, the cryptojacking script starts running in the background of your computer or device.
More and more companies are using cloud platforms and services, making the cloud an obvious next target for hackers. By breaking into cloud services, hackers can use a huge amount of computer resources, which leads to a sharp increase in costs for users of cloud accounts without knowing why. To gain access, cybercriminals hack into your computer network and scan code and files for cloud-based API keys.
After using one of these three methods of infecting computing devices with a cryptomining script, cryptojacking works quickly and silently in the background of your computer. Here’s how to do it:
Threats, or cryptojackers, post cryptomining code in email, websites, or access cloud services.
Unsuspecting users click on links, download attachments, or click on an infected ad on a website.
The cryptomining script is executed and starts running in the background without the user’s knowledge.
Computing resources are used to solve complex mining computations and block mining algorithms, adding these new blocks to the blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrency.
With little risk of detection as they add a new block to the chain, cryptojackers receive the cryptocurrency in their own digital wallet.
Detecting cryptojacking attacks
If a cryptojacking attack is not detected, it wreaks havoc on both business and personal computers, slowing down performance and increasing energy costs as more computing power is used. Once your network has been compromised, it can be difficult to determine which device is at risk. This is why it is important that you and your IT team know how to detect cryptojacking.
Here’s how you can detect a cryptojacking attack on your computer or device:
Be aware of any degradation in computing performance
Crypto mining can lead to a drop in the performance of your computer, slowing down even basic functions. Watch out for devices that are slow or laggy.
Watch out for overheating devices
Track Watch out for overheating of computers, laptops and tablets. Cryptomining scripts consume a lot of computing resources, which can cause devices to work harder and overheat. This can lead to hardware failures and repairs, as well as an increase in your IT budget.
Check for increased CPU utilization
Monitor your computer for any abnormal CPU (Central Processing Unit) usage. If you notice that the number of users is increasing by visiting sites that do not have a lot of media content, this could be a sign that cryptojacking is taking place. To monitor, use Task Manager on your computer or Activity Monitor on Mac computers.
Check if there are any changes in encoding on your sites
Monitor your own websites to check for any changes to files or web pages. Cryptojackers are looking for vulnerable sites where they can embed cryptomining code.
Check for malware regularly
Make sure your security software is up to date and regularly scanned for malware. Knowing early that your system has been compromised can help you quickly plan and stop cryptojacking on your computer and other devices.
Get the latest cryptojacking information
Cryptojacking information is constantly updated as cybercriminals come up with new mining scenarios and methods to infect your computer. Stay on top of the latest trends and threats by relying on trusted sources like CryptoSlate and CoinDesk.
5 ways to prevent cryptojacking
Detecting if and when cryptojacking occurs on your computer is just the beginning — there are some things you can do to prevent a malicious mining script from running on your computer. Use these preventative tips to protect your business and personal computing devices:
Make sure your IT team knows what cryptojacking is and how to detect it early on. Be on the lookout for various attack methods and know what to do when there is a threat.
2. train your employees
In addition to educating your IT team, your employees need to be knowledgeable about proper security guidelines and practices. Make sure they understand what cryptojacking is and how it can damage your entire network. While learning, be clear about the risks of opening emails from unknown senders and clicking on links and attachments.
3.use of browser extensions
Many browsers include extensions that can stop cryptomining from happening. Browser extensions like minerBlock and No Coin will track any suspicious activity and block cryptojacking attacks.
4.install ad blockers
Website ads are at risk and can be embedded using cryptomining scripts. Many ad blockers can filter and block these scripts from running in computer browsers.
Defending against cryptojacking attacks starts with awareness, detection, and prevention. Use the guidelines provided here to help secure your computer and other devices against unauthorized cryptojacking. For more protection, make sure your cybersecurity plan is up to date against all types of cyber threats.