Blockchain

Cryptojacking: How not to Become a Victim?

Not having a crypto wallet doesn’t save you from Crypto-jackers. This old-school cybercrime is more threatening than it seems.

Cryptojacking: How not to Become a Victim

Lately, cryptocurrencies have turned into a real financial asset with a consistent rise in its value. It is safe, reliable, and very hard to track. However, the more value it attains in the market, the bigger of a threat crypto-jacking grows into. In simple terms, crypto-jacking is the unauthorized use of your computer’s resources to mine cryptocurrency. So, the question is – are there any ways to stay safe from crypto-jacking in 2020? 

What steps should we all take to fight it? There are a few maintenance slash security solutions, which you can explore. However, to be able to keep “crypto thieves” at bay, you’ll need a lot more than an optimization tool. This problem is at the verge of explosion, and it is harder to track and eliminate a crypto-jacker than ransomware, phishing, or even spyware.

Read on to learn the most effective tips and tricks on how to protect yourself from cryptojackers and keep your devices safe.

What is a cryptocurrency and how it works?

A cryptocurrency is a new form of digital money which is based on a huge network distributed by a large number of computers around the world. The term “crypto” signifies the technology used to secure the network from vulnerabilities. The decentralised nature of this network makes it impervious to any government or regulatory interference. Blockchains, a recent breakthrough in maintaining the integrity of transactional data, is a vital component of this network. It is believed Blockchains will soon burst in other sectors like finance, real estate and law as well. Cryptocurrencies have been highly praised for being inflation-resistant, portable, highly divisible and transparent. Some popular cryptocurrencies are Bitcoin, Bitcoin, Ethereum, Binance Coin and Tron.

What is cryptojacking?

Cryptojacking also known as malicious crypto-mining, is a computer, smart-device and server threat which sits in the system hidden and uses the machine’s resources to mine cryptocurrencies. According to an Economic Times report, over 3 million cryptojacking records were recorded between January-May 2018. Another report informs of over 2000 computers being used by miners of Aditya Birla Group.

How Crypto-jackers work?

The easiest way for a hacker to access someone else’s computer is to by deceiving them. They can get any user to open a malicious attachment or a link disguised in an email that automatically starts downloading the miner. Alternatively, they can infect a website or create a malicious copy that, again, auto-launches the miner and infects the system. This is why, at their core, these “good old” phishing tactics that don’t even involve any hacking, work perfectly for such attacks.

Subsequently, it’s almost impossible to detect a crypto-mining code with the naked eye. Once it successfully plants itself into the OS, the script starts to work in the background, never revealing itself to the user. The most obvious sign is a slower-than-before performance, lags in various applications, and minor issues with stability. The worst thing about the most advanced miners – they can “migrate” from one device in the network to another, spreading the infection.

A quick note: Crypto-jacking scripts neither inflict any damage to the end user’s hardware or software, nor do they steal any critical corporate data. However, they cause a lot of trouble by jeopardizing the overall performance, as mentioned earlier. It is a huge problem for any business that can’t afford to slow down because of technical issues.

You are under the threat of Cryptojacking

If you think that you don’t even have a crypto wallet so you don't need to worry about miners, you are wrong. These days, crypto-jacking is more rampant than threats like targeted attacks aimed at stealing logins-passwords. Criminals use it to infect home as well as corporate computers and use their resources to mine cryptocurrencies. 

The most apparent reason for its popularity – it generates money (cryptocurrencies) 24/7, non-stop. When compared to threats like ransomware, it’s not a one-time act (the victim pays and gets the encryption code). Crypto miners won’t stop working unless detected and eliminated. Secondly, to launch such an attack, you don’t need advanced technical/hacking skills. The dark web is full of so-called “kits” that make crypto-jacking a walk in the park.

Finally, for criminals, crypto-jacking is one of the least risky endeavours. It’s almost impossible to track down the “mastermind” behind a miner attack. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, crypto-codes constantly generate an income, while threats like ransomware attacks might end up with nothing. By the way, Bitcoins aren’t one of the very popular cryptocurrencies among crypto-jackers, as it’s easier to follow their trail. 

How Can You Block Crypto-jacking?

So, what can you do to protect yourself from crypto-jackers infecting your system(s) with miners? After months of meticulous research and in-house tests, we selected a few steps and tools that provide the most effective protection against Crypto-jackers. Make sure to implement every single procedure/tool you can for utmost efficiency.

Start with Employee Training

It’s no secret that human error is the #1 vulnerability that cybercriminals exploit. Such cases have been reported numerous times by different studies over the last decade. And that’s exactly why your staff members must be educated and ready to do their best against miners.

Many businesses/corporations have frequent security solutions awareness and training routines. Our advice is to start teaching your employees how to recognize these types of attacks.

Moreover, phishing is the most common method of malware delivery, including crypto-jackers. And yes, you won’t be able to protect your network from the advanced auto-executing miners that hide in legit as well as non-legit sites. However, awareness training will dramatically reduce the number of successful email links or attachment phishing attacks.

Run Ad-blockers/extensions

Cryptojackers use web ads as a means of finding a way into the system. That’s precisely why you need to install an ad-blocker or a browser extension against miners on every single browser in the network. 

The good news is – many 100% free ad-blockers can be quite effective in blocking crypto-jacking scripts. But if you’re serious about this, you might want to invest in a commercial tool.

Implement endpoint protection

It’s safe to say that most businesses in 2020 run some sort of endpoint protection program. It safeguards the network from a wide range of threats, including malware, ransomware, and spyware. It often includes modules that focus on blocking crypto miners as well. Endpoint protection checks the database, and if a specific miner is included in the list, the antivirus gets rid of it immediately.

On the downside, since crypto-jackers aren’t that hard to create, hackers are always coming up with new codes that can overrun endpoint protection checks. So, unless you’ve got brick-strong protection against zero-day attacks (emerging threats), the antivirus won’t be very effective against the most recently-developed miners.

Use mobile management to your advantage

MDM solutions are widespread for modern-day businesses. First of all, they allow keeping track of every single device connected to the corporate network. Secondly, they make it very easy to access all these computers, laptops, or mobile gadgets and install all the necessary updates. Most companies follow the BYOD policy, and without proper mobile device management, you won’t be able to stay on top of things.

Sadly, MDM solutions aren’t cheap, and smaller businesses can’t usually afford them. However, chances are you might not even need one, as mobile devices aren’t a big target for crypto-miners. The reason: they’re not as powerful as desktop computers (the CPUs, in particular) and are relatively safe.

Keep the system up to date

This is the most ancient and yet most effective advice one can give: keep the system updated. True, hackers are always perfecting their tools, but so are the OS developers. And while most updates aim to improve stability, introduce new business tools, and speed up the performance, they boost the overall level of security solutions.

Use network monitoring tools

According to many experts with experience in this matter, network monitoring solutions effectively detect crypto-jackers. Consumer endpoint solutions don’t usually include monitoring tools, while business-oriented tools do. The recent developments in AI (artificial intelligence) have proven to be extremely effective at detecting and eliminating miners.

At its core, network monitoring refers to keeping an eye on the traffic - 24/7. Once a potential threat to the network is detected, it can be dealt with promptly. Crypto-jackers are also known to hide on web servers. They stay there for a very long time and wait for human error to penetrate the network. Therefore, make a habit of regularly checking your servers and looking for any suspicious changes.

Some of the Most Dangerous Crypto-jackers

Last but not least, here is a list of the most dangerous crypto-jackers you should be aware of:

  • PowerGhost: It uses spear-phishing to access the system. Once it’s in, the mining of cryptocurrencies begins. But before that, PowerGhost does its best to block/disable any security solutions and rivalling crypto-jackers.
  • Graboid: The worst thing about this miner is that it spreads very fast. It behaves like a computer worm, which is relatively rare. Graboid mostly grabs on to vulnerable Docker Engine deployments.
  • Monero: This is another jacker that parasites on the Docker network to attack user computers. The criminals put the malicious code inside Docker images – that’s how they get in. According to Palo Alto, Monero-infected images were used 2+ million times over the last couple of months.
  • BadShell: Here, we have one of the most advanced and dangerous miners. It exploits PowerShell to launch scripts that implement a crypto code into an active process. Next, it uses the Task Manager and the Registry to keep this code alive and working 24/7.
  • Facexworm: As far as the sneakiest miners go, Facexworm is right there in the top-3. It masks itself as a Chrome extension and uses Facebook’s Messenger to do its dirty work.
  • CoinMiner: The main task of the CoinMiner is to locate and eliminate already-running miners. Yes, it’s not rare for a targeted computer to be already infected, and “killers” like the CoinMiner are necessary to ensure maximum efficiency of the newly planted cryptojackers.

EndNote

Crypto-jacking threat is real and no matter how aloof you seem from cryptocurrency, so can be their next target. Being an organisation, you should include crypto-jacking awareness in training sessions and all measures discussed above to make yourself impervious from such attacks. Individuals should take above-discussed measures to make sure their devices don’t turn up into bots digging cryptocurrencies.

One thing about technology, it changes very fast. If you don't keep up with your security protocols, chances are sooner or later you can be a victim of constantly on the rise cyber attacks. I conclude by saying, “It's better safe to be sorry”. 

Vikram <span>Content Manager</span>
Written By
Vikram Content Manager

Vikram is an experienced wunderkind, who embraced technology at a very early age, and today he is at the helm of it. Mobile apps are something that excites him the most, and now he is up to give this vertical the best shot. He routinely catches up with the new apps and comes up with the top apps that can excite you to the core.

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