Cryptojacking definition & connotation

Cybercriminals can mine cryptocurrencies by using other people’s equipment (such as computers, smartphones, tablets, or even servers) without their permission. This practise is known as “cryptojacking.” Profit is the motivation, as it is in many other forms of cybercrime, but unlike other threats, this one is made to remain fully hidden from the target.

What is cryptocurrency theft?

The danger known as “cryptojacking” takes over a computer or mobile device and exploits its resources to mine cryptocurrencies. Digital or virtual money, also known as “coins” or “tokens,” is known as cryptocurrency. The most well-known cryptocurrency is Bitcoin, but there are almost 3,000 others. While some cryptocurrencies have made an appearance in the real world via credit cards or other projects, the majority are still imaginary.

Blockchain is a distributed database that is used by cryptocurrencies. The blockchain is updated often with data on each transaction that has occurred since the previous update. ‘Blocks’ are created by combining each recent set of transactions using a challenging mathematical procedure.

Cryptocurrencies rely on individual users’ computational power to create new blocks. People who provide the processing power are rewarded with cryptocurrency thanks to cryptocurrencies. “Miners” are people who exchange computing resources for money.

For the most complex cryptocurrencies, teams of miners use specialised computer rigs to do the required mathematical operations. This activity utilises a lot of electricity; for instance, the Bitcoin network now consumes more than 73TWh annually.

Future of cryptojacking and cryptojackers
Cryptojackers are those that seek to benefit from cryptocurrency mining without having to pay the prohibitive fees, and here is where cryptojacking comes into play. Cryptojacking enables hackers to mine for cryptocurrencies without the high overhead costs of purchasing pricey mining equipment or high electricity bills. Monero is a cryptocurrency that is largely mined on personal computers and is popular among cybercriminals since it is hard to track.

Whether cryptojacking is declining or increasing is a topic of some discussion. The prevalence of cryptojacking typically increases in direct proportion to the price of cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin and Monero. But in recent years, two things have made cryptojacking less common:

  • law enforcement crackdowns
  • the closure of Coinhive, the most important website for dealing with cryptocurrency miners. Websites could use the JavaScript code given by Coinhive to instruct visitors’ computers to mine Monero. Hackers could insert a mining script into a website without the website owner’s knowledge because to a flaw in the Coinhive code, which was soon misused. The number of site infections significantly decreased after the site’s closure in March 2019.
    A cryptojacking attack just has one goal in mind: money. Cryptocurrency mining can be extremely profitable, but doing so is difficult without the resources to pay for high overhead. The illegal form of cryptomining, known as cryptojacking, provides a quick, efficient, and cost-effective means to produce valuable currencies.

How is cryptojacking carried out?

Devices are hacked by cybercriminals who then install cryptojacking software. The malware operates in the background, stealing from cryptocurrency wallets or mining for new ones. The unaware victims use their gadgets normally, however they can experience lags or decreased performance.

Hackers can silently mine cryptocurrencies on a victim’s device using two main methods:

  • by persuading the target to open a malicious link in an email that launches cryptomining software on the machine
  • By inserting JavaScript code into a website or online advertisement so that it automatically runs when the victim’s browser loads it

To increase their profit, hackers frequently combine the two techniques. In each instance, the victim works while the code instals the cryptojacking script into the device and lets it run in the background. Regardless of the technique, the script executes difficult mathematical operations on the victims’ computers and transmits the results to a server under the hacker’s control.

Cryptojacking scripts don’t harm machines or victims’ data like other kinds of malware do. They do, however, steal processing power from computers. Slower computer performance may only be an issue to some users. However, cryptojacking is a problem for businesses since they have to pay real fees when their systems are frequently compromised. For instance:

the utilisation of help desk and IT time to investigate performance issues and swap out parts or systems in an effort to find a solution.
higher expenses for electricity.
Some cryptomining scripts have the ability to spread worms throughout a network, infecting more computers and servers. This makes it more difficult to find and get rid of them. These scripts might also do a scan to detect if any other cryptomining malware has already infiltrated the system. The script stops another cryptominer if it is found.

Early on, several website owners tried to make money from their traffic by allowing visitors to mine cryptocurrencies while they were on their site. They presented it as a fair trade in which users would receive free content in exchange for the websites using their computers for mining. For instance, consumers on gaming websites might browse the page for a while as the JavaScript code mines for currency. The cryptomining would then stop when they depart the location. This strategy may be successful if websites are open about their operations. The challenge for users is determining if websites are being truthful or not.

Cryptojacking, a malicious form of cryptomining, operates without your knowledge long after you leave the original website. Owners of questionable websites or hackers who have infiltrated trustworthy websites utilise this tactic. The fact that a website a user visited was using their computer to mine cryptocurrency is unknown to the user. Just enough system resources are used by the code to avoid detection. A secret browser window remains open even while the user believes the visible ones are closed. Frequently, it can be a pop-under that is sized to fit behind the clock or beneath the taskbar.

By employing the same techniques that attack desktop computers, cryptojacking can also infect Android mobile devices. Some attacks take place using a Trojan that is buried within a downloaded app. Another option is to drive users’ phones to an infected website, which leaves a lingering pop-under. Despite the relatively low processing power of individual phones, when attacks are launched simultaneously on a large number of devices, the combined power is sufficient to support the efforts of the cryptojackers.

Examples of cryptojacking attacks

High-profile instances of cryptocurrency theft include:

  • In 2019, the Microsoft Store removed eight different apps that secretly mined cryptocurrency using the resources of users who downloaded them. The apps were allegedly created by three distinct developers, but it was believed that the same person or group was responsible for all of them. The Microsoft Store’s keyword search function and rankings of the best free apps are two places where potential victims could come upon the cryptojacking programmes. Users unintentionally downloaded JavaScript code for cryptojacking when they downloaded and used one of the apps. The device’s performance would be slowed significantly as soon as the miner turned on and began searching for Monero.
  • 2018 saw the discovery of cryptojacking code buried within the Homicide Report page of the Los Angeles Times. Visitors to the Homicide Report page had their computers mine Monero, a well-known cryptocurrency. The script required very little computer power, making it unlikely that many users would notice that their devices had been compromised, hence the threat was not discovered for a long.
  • The operational technology network of a European water utility control system was the target of cryptojackers in 2018, substantially impairing the ability of the operators to manage the utility plant. The first known instance of a cryptojacking attack on an industrial control system happened in this case. The miner was producing Monero, just like the Los Angeles Times hack.
  • Early in 2018, it was discovered that the CoinHive miner was active on YouTube Ads via Google’s DoubleClick system.
  • Over 200,000 MikroTik routers in Brazil were compromised by a cryptojacking assault between July and August 2018, injecting CoinHive code into a significant amount of web traffic.

How to spot cryptocurrency theft

Because cryptojacking is frequently concealed or intended to appear as a helpful activity on your device, it might be challenging to detect. Here are three warning signals to look out for, though:

Three signs of cryptojacking to watch out for

  1. Decreased effectiveness
    Reduced performance on your computing equipment is one of the main signs of cryptojacking. So keep an eye out for your gadget running slowly, crashing, or displaying particularly poor performance. Slower systems can be the first warning indication to look out for. Another potential sign is your battery draining more quickly than usual.
  2. Overheating Cryptojacking uses a lot of resources and might lead to overheating in computing equipment. This may limit the lifespan of computers or cause damage to them. If the fan on your laptop or computer is running more quickly than usual, this may be a sign that a cryptojacking script or website is making the device hot and the fan is running to save the device from melting or catching fire.
  3. Use of the central processing unit (CPU)
    When visiting a website with little to no media content, a rise in CPU utilisation could indicate the presence of cryptojacking scripts. Checking your device’s central processing unit (CPU) use in the Activity Monitor or Task Manager is a good cryptojacking test. Keep in mind, nevertheless, that certain processes could conceal themselves or pose as something trustworthy in order to prevent you from halting the abuse. Additionally, your computer will operate very slowly when it is operating at full capacity, making troubleshooting more challenging.

Utilize a reliable cybersecurity programme

A thorough cybersecurity programme like Kaspersky Total Security will assist in identifying risks across the board and can offer protection from cryptojacking malware. It is always advisable to install security before you become a victim, just like with all other malware safety measures. Installing the most recent updates and patches for your operating system, software, and any apps is also recommended, particularly for online browsers.

Be aware of the most recent cryptojacking trends because hackers are always updating their code and finding new ways to send it to your computer system. You can identify cryptojacking on your network and devices and prevent other cybersecurity attacks by being proactive and staying up to date with the most recent cybersecurity threats.

Use browser add-ons that are intended to stop cryptojacking: Web browsers are frequently used to host cryptojacking programmes. To stop cryptojackers from spreading throughout the internet, you can use specific browser extensions like minerBlock, No Coin, and Anti Miner. In some well-known browsers, they can be installed as extensions.

Install ad blockers: Since cryptojacking scripts are frequently distributed through internet advertisements, doing so can help you stop them. Malicious cryptojacking code can be found and stopped using an ad blocker like Ad Blocker Plus.

Disable JavaScript: By removing JavaScript from your web browser, you can stop your machine from becoming infected with cryptojacking software. Although that stops drive-by cryptojacking, it can also prevent you from using necessary functions.

Block websites known to distribute scripts for cryptojacking:
Make sure every page you visit is on a thoroughly screened whitelist to avoid cryptojacking while browsing the internet. Although you can block access to sites known for cryptojacking, your network or device may still be vulnerable to newly discovered cryptojacking URLs.

Since all that is “taken” in a cryptojacking attack is the victim’s computer’s processing capacity, it would appear to be a pretty innocent crime. However, this illegal use of computational resources is carried out without the victim’s knowledge or permission and serves the interests of criminals who are forging money without a legal basis. To reduce the dangers, we advise adhering to sound cybersecurity procedures and installing reliable internet security on all of your devices.

For the best performance & protection for an online security solution in 2021, Kaspersky Internet Security won two AV-TEST awards. Kaspersky Internet Security performed remarkably well and provided excellent protection from online threats in every test.

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