Cryptojacking - A New threat to the Digital world - Seeker's Thoughts

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Cryptojacking - A New threat to the Digital world

If your computer slows down all of sudden, and you have problems with your computer speeds, when you go online, this article may be helpful for you.

We live in a digital age, with more people than ever doing most, if not all, their financial transactions and shopping online. With this also came the rise in cryptocurrencies.According to the cyber-security firm Kaspersky, hackers are taking over computers to mine for cryptocurrencies. Singapore has had a spike in cryptojacking attempts in the first three months of 2020.

More than 11,700 cryptojacking on devices were in between January and March 2020.  It was  an increase of more than three times from the same period last year, where there were about 2,900 attempts. 

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Russia based Kaspersky firm said the spike in Singapore is the highest percentage increase in South-east Asia.

Hijackers target Singapore because its information technology infrastructure offers a healthy supply of bandwidth for cyber criminals to take advantage of.

Cryptojacking has become a serious global problem, with cyber criminals gaining unauthorized entry to a computer system to make miners with minimal risk and effort. Cryptojacking is on the rise, with hackers coming up with new ways to steal computer resources and mine for cryptocurrencies.

A new trend for hackers is to embed cryptojacking malware on YouTube, where it’s easy to get users to click and activate crypto mining scripts.

First, we will understand what is cryptojacking?

Cryptojacking is malicious crypto mining that happens when cybercriminals hack into both business and personal computers, laptops and mobile devices to install the software. This software uses the computer’s power and resources to mine for cryptocurrencies or steals cryptocurrencies wallets owned by unsuspecting victims. The code is easy to deploy, runs in the background, and is difficult to detect.

With just a few lines of code, hackers can hijack the resources of any computer and leave unsuspecting victims with slower computer response times, increased processor usage, overheating computer devices, higher electricity bills. Hackers use these resources to both steal cryptocurrency from other digital wallets and to allow hijacked computers to do the work so they can mine valuable coins.

The core idea behind cryptojacking is that hackers use business and personal computer and device resource to do their mining work for them. 

Cyber criminals siphoned the currency they either earn or steal into their own digital by using these hijacked computers. These hijacked computers are compromised by a slowing down of CPU function and using more electricity for processing.

 The rise of Cryptojacking

Cryptojacking first came into light in September of 2017 when bitcoin was at its height. Code published by the organization coinhive on their website, which shut down early in 2019, was intended to be a mining tool for website owners to passively earn money – an alternative to displaying ads on their site for income.

 Instead, cybercriminals realized they could exploit this code to embed their own crypto mining script. They were able to use the computing resources of visitors to the website to mine for the cryptocurrency.

There are three main methods that cryptojackers use to maliciously mine for cryptocurrencies
1 – Downloading malware to execute crypto mining scripts.
2- Hijacking IT infrastructure.
3- And accessing cloud services.

With file-based cryptojacking, malware is downloaded and runs an executable file that spread a cryptomining script throughout the IT infrastructure.

One of the most common ways that cryptojacking occurs is by using malicious emails. An email is sent containing an attachment or link that looks legitimate. When a user clicks on the attachment or link, code is executed that downloads the cryptomining script onto the computer. This script works in the background without the user’s knowledge.

Cryptojacking attacks can take place directly within a web browser, using IT infrastructure to mine for cryptocurrency.
Hackers create a cryptomining script using a programming language and then embed that script into numerous websites. The script is run automatically, with code being downloaded onto the user’s computer. These malicious scripts can be embedded in ads and vulnerable and out of date Word Press plugins.

Cryptojacking can also happen through a supply chain attack, where cryptomining code compromises JavaScript libraries.

Cloud cryptojacking
When hackers use cloud cryptojacking, they search through an organization’s files and code for API keys to access their cloud services, once access is gained, hackers siphon unlimited CPU resources for cryptomining , resulting in a huge increase in account costs. Using this method, hackers can significantly accelerate their efforts of cryptojacking to illicitly mine for currency.

How does cryptojacking work?

Compromised an Asset to Embed scripts – Cyber hackers, also known as threat actors, compromise an asset by embedding crypto mining code using one of the three methods above.

Once embedded, cryptojackers are counting on victims to execute the script. Users either click on an attachment or link to execute and run the crypto mining script or browse to a website with infected ads.

After being executed, the crypto mining script runs in the background, without the knowledge of the user.
The script uses computer power to solve complex algorithm to mine what is called a “block” these blocks are added to a blockchain, the technology which stores digital information about cryptocurrency.
Each time a hacker adds a new block to the chain they receive cryptocurrency coins without very little work or risk, these threat actors are able to gain rewards in cryptocurrency that they can anonymously put directly into their digital wallets.

Also read - The Block chain technology

How to detect cryptojacking?

One of the top symptoms of cryptojacking is a decrease in performance in your computing devices. This includes desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices. Slower systems can be the first sign of crypto mining – educate your employees to report any decrease in processing to IT.

The resource-intensive process of cryptojacking can cause computing devices to overheat. This can lead to computer damage or shorten their lifespan. Also related to overheating devices are fans that run longer than they should in an attempt to cool down the system.
Cybercriminals are looking for websites where they can embed cryptomining code. Regularly monitor your own websites for changes to webpages or any files on the webserver. This early detection can prevent your systems from being compromised by cryptojacking.

Monitor and analyze the central processing unit (CPU) usage, or you can do it yourself for personal computers. This can be done using the Activity Monitor or Task Manager. If there’s an increase in CPU usage when users are on a website with little or no media content, it’s a sign that crypto mining scripts may be running.

What can be done to stop cryptojacking?

Detecting if and when cryptojacking is happening on your computer is just a start – there are some things you can do to prevent malicious mining script from running on your computer. Use these preventative tips to protect your business and personal computing devices:
Ensure that your IT team knows what cryptojacking is and how to detect it early. Be on the lookout for the different attack methods and know what to do when there’s a threat.

As well as training your IT team, your employees need to be educated about proper security guidelines and regulations

Make sure they understand what cryptojacking is and how it can harm your entire network. When training, be clear about the risks of opening emails from unknown senders and clicking on links and attachments.

Employ Browser extensions

Many browsers include extensions that can stop crypto mining from happening. Browser extensions such as miner block and No Coin will monitor for any suspicious activity and block cryptojacking attacks.
Install ad-blockers
Website ads are at risk and can be embedded with cryptomining scripts. Many ad-blockers can filter and block these scripts from running on computer browsers.
Block JavaScript
Disabling JavaScript can also stop cryptomining script from running on your computing devices. You can disable within the browser, choosing to block it for an entire website or by page. It’s important to remember that JavaScript is widely used for many of the features you need when browsing so disabling may limit the functionality of some websites.

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