What is Cryptojacking and How to Fight against it
Cryptojacking is a type of cyberattack where cybercriminals and hackers make use of remote computer systems to target cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. In recent years, digital currencies have seen a great surge in their value. As these currencies started to become a lucrative investment, cybercriminals devised a new way to make use of ransomware-like strategies to target them. Cryptojacking is such a way, which works by infecting a website with malicious content that loads cryptomining code on the user’s computer. Although cryptojacking attacks seemed to drop off when cryptocurrencies lost their original appeal and value last year, such cyberattacks are on the rise again.
Recent reports show that websites can be infected with ransomware through online ads also. Cybercriminals include a malicious script in such ads that executes its action automatically as soon as it’s loaded on an internet browser. All this makes being vigilant about cryptojacking and understanding how to prevent it very important for both individuals and businesses who are investing in any type of cryptocurrency.
How Does Cryptojacking Work
Cryptojacking works on the foundation of cryptomining, which is one of the most recent means of earning money. As cryptomining requires great processing power and immense system resources, cybercriminals make use of unauthorized remote computer systems to perform the process and generate profits from it. The cryptomining code works in the background without the user knowing that the computer is infected with such malware. The only symptom of the cyberattack is a steep decline in system performance.
It should be noted that cybercriminals can employ any type of cyberattack to cryptojack a computer system today. However, there are two common methods, which are usually followed in cryptojacking to take control of the remote computer’s resources and processing power in order to mine cryptocurrencies. The first method is to infect the computer system making use of traditional phishing email attack strategies. Here, cybercriminals would send genuine-looking emails to many users. These emails would contain a malicious link, which would transfer the cryptocurrency mining code to the computer as soon as the user clicks on it.
The second method of cryptojacking is by developing malicious browser plugins or online ads and delivering them to several websites. This technique is used on a much bigger scale these days, which loads the malicious code onto the user’s system as soon as a browser plug-in is installed on it or when the user opens a website that contains any such infected ads. No matter which of the situations led to the infection, the malicious script transferred to the computer would start running in the background automatically without the knowledge of the user.
Generally, a cryptojacking code would run all the complicated algorithms and mathematical operations that are needed to mine cryptocurrency on the remote computer system. The results extracted would then be sent to the server managed by the cybercriminal, who would use them to generate profits. It is reported that cryptojacking scripts do not usually corrupt, damage, or steal the infected computer’s data or resources as it is seen with many other types of cyberattacks. Nonetheless, the code would consume a significant part of the system resources to run the cryptomining algorithms.
How to Prevent Cryptojacking
In recent times, most cryptocurrencies have seen a slump in their value. However, they still have great potential to bounce back, which is why it attracts hackers and cybercriminals to generate huge profits through cryptocurrency mining. Even in their downs, the popularity and use of cryptocurrencies have never seen a decline, which is a good reason enough for cybercriminals to perform cryptojacking.
There is not much evidence to prove how many cryptocurrencies have been already affected by cryptojacking attacks. Yet a few reports say that the practice is growing rampant and that there has been around a 30% increase in cryptojacking through browser plugins and ads in the past couple of years. Besides, reports also say that more than 33,000 websites across the world are currently infected with malicious cryptomining scripts, which altogether have more than 1 billion users every month. This constitutes a great number of internet users who can easily fall prey to cryptojacking malware.
Although preventing cryptojacking and detecting such a cyberattack can be very difficult, there are some ways to identify the malware infection and take appropriate actions against it. Note that most of the firewalls and antivirus software use a standard malware detection method to scan the computer and search for any infection. As cryptojacking does not employ any of the standard malware infection approaches, it makes it too tricky to detect. However, a few typical computer problems, such as a sudden drop in the system performance or overheating, can be considered the first signs of a cryptojacking attack. Any such unexpected system problem should be attended as soon as possible to eliminate the chances of cryptojacking.
Users can also use network-monitoring software to manage and assess their network performance and computer resource consumption, which would in turn help to detect cryptojacking. Businesses can have a common system resource monitoring software in order to analyze the use of individual system resources in the company. This would not only help them to manage their resources properly, but also help in detecting any cryptojacking script on individual computers. Similarly, using advanced web-filtering tools, endpoint protection to detect malware and cryptojacking scripts, and installing a powerful ad or script blocker on the browser can help to prevent such cyberattacks.
Remember that there are no guaranteed methods to stop cryptojacking attacks. Nonetheless, you can fight against the malicious payload on your computer system by installing the right cybersecurity solutions. At the same time, you should be aware of the risks of opening unauthorized links on emails and visiting malicious websites. You should immediately block any spam emails that contain cryptojacking links, and never install any uncertified add-ons on your browser. Likewise, you should stay away from hostile web activities and never visit any illegitimate websites. Making sure to keep the browser extensions updated and clearing browser cache every now and then can also help get rid of some cryptojacking scripts.