Increase in Mining Popularity

Crypto-currency mining saw a massive increase in popularity in Q4 2017 due to spikes digital currency value. During this time, the value of the “Bitcoin” currency was at an all-time-high, at nearly $20 000 per coin. Other currencies such as Monero also saw increase in value. While their financial worth has since decreased, the recent spike has encouraged many cyberattackers to develop many dangerous cyptojacking tools.

What are Cryptomining and Cryptojacking?

Cryptomining is a method of earning digital currencies such as Bitcoin by using a computer’s physical resources to verify digital transactions. In other words, by dedicating their computer’s processing power to contribute to transaction calculations, a cryptominer is compensated with digital currency.

Cryptojacking is when attackers install malware onto a computer to forcibly use its resources to cryptomine while gaining all the earned currency for themselves. While this malicious technology has been present ever since the advent of cryptocurrencies, their value has never been high enough to attract widespread attention of attackers until late last year. In their 2018 Cyberthreat report, Mcafee stressed the appeal of cryptojacking for cyberattackers, citing that it is a relatively simple and low-risk method of attack. Therefore, it is now imperative that organizations become aware of the risks and symptoms of cryptojacking attacks on their systems.

The Effects of Cryptomining Malware

Because cryptojacking malware relies on remaining in the victims’ computer to continually use their resources for cryptomining, they are inherently designed to avoid detection. Therefore, it is difficult to immediately identify when a system is infected with this type of malware. However, due to the fact that it forcibly uses the computers’ resources, common symptoms include computer slowdowns, overheating leading to hardware damage, and decreased battery life.

Therefore, while the impacts of cryptojacking are not as immediate as data-stealing Trojans or Ransomware, their effects can be devastating in the long-term. If hardware damage or software corruption occurs due to overuse of the system’s resources, time and financial resources will need to be wasted to repair and restore the affected systems.

How is cryptojacking malware spread?

Like any other form of malware, cryptojacking software can be spread in a variety of ways. For instance, a computer can be infected via Social Engineering. This is the manipulation of victims to trick them into installing malware or giving away sensitive information. An instance of this is if an individual receives a fake advertisement for a career opportunity. By clicking on this malicious link, the malware is then allowed to infect the individual’s computer.

Another strategy is using websites with high traffic to distribute malware. In cryptomining, a specific malware called “Coinhive” infects victims’ computers and turns them into cryptomining tools.

Thirdly, attackers in recent times have abused an exploit called “EternalBlue” in order to install malware onto vulnerable systems. This was the case in May 2017 when the ransomware Wannacry infected thousands of computers due to organizations neglecting an essential Microsoft update in the prior month.

Attackers are also constantly in search of unprotected credentials to exploit. For instance, the cloud computing resources of Tesla and Aviva were both victims of cryptojacking due to unprotected sectors of their Kubernotes platforms.

Finally, attackers can infect computers into a botnet, and then use them as cryptominers for their own gain. For more information on the dangers and symptoms of Botnets, check out our previous blog titled “How to Protect Yourself Against Botnet Malware”.

At GigE, our experts can help your organization protect itself against cryptomining malware. Contact us today at +1 (888) 366-4443 to get started today.