The Emergence of Cryptojacking: A New Era in Cybersecurity

The Emergence of Cryptojacking: A New Era in Cybersecurity

Wednesday 13th March 2019

The emergence of cryptojacking has been a trending topic in cybersecurity. Hackers improve and invent new ways to avoid detection from both users and security systems. And as of late, these attacks are getting deadlier each day.

Cryptojacking isn't something that has popped up recently though. Cybercriminals have used to it to mine Bitcoin or other digital coins in the past. But since 2017, the frequency of these incidents has escalated astronomically. Symantec technologies reportedly blocked 8 million cryptojacking events in December 2017. In 2018, fewer than 5 million cases suggest a relative decline; but its presence is dreadful for common users.

Introduction to Cryptocurrencies

Cryptojacking has a close link to the emergence of cryptocurrencies and crypto-mining. To understand cryptojacking, we have to know what crypto-mining is and how it is used to generate cryptocurrencies.

The idea behind crypto-mining can be difficult to wrap your head around. To put in simple words, miners have to solve complex mathematical equations to generate units of cryptocurrencies. The miner who solves those equations first gets a token as a reward for his effort. The process of solving these equations is called mining, and it requires tremendous amounts of computation and energy. Whereas, the value of each cryptocurrencies depends on how hard it is to mine it and how in demand the currency is.

What is Cryptojacking?

As the name suggests, crypto jacking enables hackers to infiltrate computers, tablets, and mobile phones and hijack them to mine cryptocurrencies. The victim bears the expense of electricity and computation required for mining, but the hacker walks away with the token.

Once a machine is infected, a harmful app runs silently in the background and uses up the machines computational power to mine cryptocurrencies for the hacker. Often victims remain unaware that their computers are being attacked as there is no clear indication of said attack. As the infiltrator gradually increases the power consumption, the machine slows down more and more.

There have been countless people who have become victims of cryptojacking. Even corporate giants like Tesla and Gemalto have been casualties.

How Can It Happen?

Cybercriminals can be innovative when practicing cryptojacking. One of the most popular ways to achieve this is through phishing. This methodology includes sending seemingly harmless emails to victims that contain malicious code. Once the victim clicks the link in the email or downloads one of its attachments, a crypto-mining script starts to run on the computer.

Another method used by hackers for crypto-mining is through web browser mining. The hacker spreads crypto-mining scripts across ads placed on multiple websites or sometimes his own website. When someone visits the infected website or clicks the ad, the script is executed. Though no code is stored on the victim's machine, the hacker utilises computational power through the victim's web browser.

How to Detect It?

Cryptojacking can be detected by monitoring the consumption of your machine. An increased processor usage can be an indication of cryptojacking. This may result is the machine becoming sluggish and having slow response times. Likewise, if your machine is overheating without a valid reason, it is probably cryptojacked.