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There's a new threat in town: What you need to know about cryptojacking

Posted by Esolvit on Dec 2018Share

In last year's competition, Ransomware was crowned the leading method of cyberattack. But this year there's a new face in town as cryptojacking slowly rises to the top of the list. Riding the wave of cryptocurrency's popularity and its volatile market, cryptojacking has become a preferred way for cryptocurrency miners to cash in. Let's take a deep dive into this rising cyberthreat and the significant detriment it can pose to your business.

How cryptojacking works

To understand how cryptojacking works, we must first understand the impetus behind the surge in this practice. In short, cryptojacking is the result of cryptomining gone rogue. A cryptominer uses their computer systems to verify cryptocurrency transactions and add them to the digital blockchain ledger. Miners receive a small commission of cryptocurrency in return for these efforts. But cryptomining requires significant processing power; it takes an up-front investment into computer hardware, as well as constant electricity to run these systems. When the value of cryptocurrencies falls, it becomes much less profitable to mine, and miners must balance the cost of the electricity against plummeting profits.

Here is where cryptojacking takes to the stage. Cryptojacking is the act of performing cryptomining on a system without permission from the system owner. Cryptojacking allows miners to avoid shouldering the energy and costs by using systems that are not their own. These jackers infect websites, create ransomware, or send out malicious email links to get their mining code onto the systems of unsuspecting victims.

Historically, cyberattacks have required victims to install a program onto their system. But this recent evolution is much more unnerving. The latest in-browser cryptojacking scripts do not need to install a program in order to run on an unsuspecting system. In-browser cryptojacking requires nothing more than for the user to load a browser page, watch an online advertisement, or click on a phishing link.

Cryptojacking is so successful because it often goes entirely unnoticed by its victims. For example, the malicious Javascript embedded in a browser simply runs when the page is loaded, requiring no opt-in or installation by the user. The offending code often works behind the scenes, bypassing virus software and running on the system long after the browser is closed. Unlike ransomware that exhorts money from its victims, cryptojacking is passive, quietly consuming extra computer processing power without permission. The script simply eats up processing cycles in the background, undetected by all but the most vigilant of computer users and network security teams.

Cryptojacking's threat to your business

The prevalence of cryptojacking should be of great concern to any sensible business owner. In November 2017, Adguard reported an in-browser mining growth rate of 31%. In a recent report by McAfee, the incidence of mining malware alone rose by 629% in the first quarter of 2018. Because cryptojacking provides a low-risk money-making effort with a low barrier to entry, its popularity is expected to continue to boom.

Cryptomining requires processing power to run. A slightly slower system may sound fairly benign when applied to any standard computer user, but more dangerous is the prized target for cryptojackers: your robust corporate servers. A server is more powerful than a single workstation, and it offers cryptojackers a jackpot of processing power and free electricity, providing them a much more profitable and energyintensive operation. Over time, a cryptojacking infection will compromise processor performance and drive up overhead costs by shortening the lifespan of your organization's hardware.

Cryptojackers do not make money by conducting high-visibility stunts such as stealing your personal data, making threats, or eavesdropping on private communications. Alternatively, a server compromised by undetected cryptojacking can cost a business big money by slowing down web services and causing unintentional downtime. This downtime translates into a high sacrifice for your business and costs you profits, customer loyalty and marketability.

Tools to defend against cryptojacking

It can be difficult to determine when a system has been hijacked by illicit cryptojacking. When it comes to securing your business, knowledge is power. Use the following prevention techniques to help you protect your organization:

Ensure your security team has a performance management process and can identify cryptojacking's effects on your processing power.

Install ad-blockers and anti-cryptomining extensions to ward off attacks.

Incorporate the cryptojacking conversation into your security awareness program.

Keep your web filters up to date

Implement a behavior analysis system to more easily identify anomalous network activity.

Segment networks and apply restrictions and system interaction rules.

Routinely patch and update all computer systems.

Cryptojacking has exploded in 2018 as the frontrunner in cyberattacks, and it can cost your business in productivity, uptime, brand loyalty, energy - and most importantly - profits. When it comes to cryptojacking, prevention is paramount. ESolveIt helps you batten down the hatches on your business and implement practical security strategies and solutions that protect your systems and suit your specific needs. Cryptojacking may not be going anywhere soon, but with ESolveIt on your side, neither is your business.