Welcome to our cryptojacking guide. On June 4th, a malicious malware-Black Squid was reported to be attacking the United States and Thailand’s computers. This malware was spotted to be using hazardous exploit approaches that could hack computer systems such as DoublePulsar, EternalBlue, an Apache Tomcat, and other computing security flaws. Before then, towards the end of May, Blockchainreporter had reported about the details of the resurfaced Qulab Trojan that steals data from users and redirects their crypto assets to the attacker.
Crypto scams have become notoriously nuisance in the crypto space. Yes, we have all been smitten with the pseudonymous status that blockchain presents to us. However, from all that power people harness from this attribute, it should spur a high sense of responsibility, but instead, evil-minded individuals take advantage and use it for fraudulent activities up to the point where it makes crypto seem like it is bringing more harm than good.
Despite extreme measures like AML5 and SEC’s efforts to regulate crypto, scam cases in the cryptoverse haven’t slowed down. Even worse, crypto criminals seem to be coming up with more sophisticated methods to strip off the hard-earned digital assets or esteemed government-provided currency from the crypto community. For instance, the BlackSquid malware can go undetected by using tactics like anti-debugging, anti-virtualization, and anti-sandboxing, before it installs itself onto a system.
Such advanced efforts of crypto scamming have been a bummer in the crypto space as everyone is obliged to be more careful or rather on toes when transacting with crypto. Maybe no wonder the adoption process of crypto has been so slow. Well, since crypto scams raise eyebrows in the fintech industry, Blockchainreporter has decided to take an in-depth focus on one of the most prominent crypto scam techniques wrecking people’s trust on cryptocurrencies – Cryptojacking.
Cryptojacking is a new technique used by hackers to mine cryptocurrency using someone’s computer processing power. In 2018 alone, 13 million crypto jacking incidents were reported, that’s four times as many as in 2017. These statistics are worrying and necessitates both individuals and business to protect themselves against these attacks by learning mechanism of avoiding crypto jacking. Here is how you can recognize and prevent such an attack.
What is cryptojacking?
Cryptojacking is basically a cyber-attack where the attacker (crypto jacker) runs a cryptocurrency-mining software on someone else’s computer (hardware) to mine cryptocurrency without their knowledge or permission. The attacker then sells the cryptocurrency for a hefty profit, leaving your computer’s power drained with a large electrical bill.
Cryptojacking surged by 8500% in 2018. The recent upsurge is primarily because cryptojacking is seen as a cheaper alternative to ransomware (which involves high risk). Hackers prefer cryptojacking because they are less likely to be identified or caught since cryptocurrency-mining software can go for months without being detected. Additionally, it is difficult to trace the offending scripts back to the source.
There are several ways in which hackers can gain access to a computer and pull a cryptojacking attack. The most common tactic is through the use of a legitimate email containing a link that baits the email recipient to click on the link. On clicking the link, it runs a code that installs cryptocurrency-mining software on the computer. The software runs silently in the background undetected.
The other common tactic is to link a script on a website or an online ad. When a user visits the site, a pop-up appears in their browser tab and automatically runs the software. The software runs completely in the background; therefore, it cannot be detected easily.
Damages caused by cryptojacking
Apart from losing your digital assets, crypto jacking leads to extensive damage to the victim’s computer and can even physically destroy their devices. For example, an Android malware called Loapi, physically destroyed devices it was installed on.
Cryptojacking scripts significantly slow a computer’s performance, especially low-end machines. The script can be so intense that it strains the CPU, causing it to produce excess heat, which is harmful to your computer’s hardware.
More, cryptojacking attacks directed towards servers or computers of established firms hinders productivity and cuts profit significantly. In some severe cases of crypto jacking attacks, business operations are disrupted for some days, which can lead to excessive loss.
How to detect cryptojacking on your PC
While crypto jacking scripts are mostly subtle and can run silently in the background, there are ways in which you can detect them. The very first step is checking your CPU usage. When you are using a Windows-based PC, you should use the procedure below to check your PC’s usage:
- Open the task manager.
- In the Task Manager, check on the “Processes” tab and find the browser you are currently using.
- Next, expand all of the open tabs in the browser you are currently using by clicking on the arrow next to the browser. Find out which site is using an excessive amount of CPU power compared to other sites. Sites using substantially higher CPU power could be mining coins.
If you are using a Mac, follow the same procedure after opening the “Activity Monitor.” You can also use Malware scanners to detect unauthorized crypto jacking scripts running on your PC. Alway, be on the lookout of indicators such as frequent crushing, overheating, slow performance and a rapid drain of the battery to quickly identify crypto jacking presence in your computer/device.
Even though crypto jacking is a menace in the cryptoverse, it is still possible to protect yourself and your devices against these attacks by simply following the tactics below:
- Avoid downloading unknown emails – As earlier stated, emails are the most common ways in which crypto jacking attacks occur. It is therefore essential to avoid downloading anonymous emails, or even worse, clicking on the email links which you don’t trust or know the origin.
- Don’t trust every crypto app you see on the app stores. Many scammers have been known to create fake android wallets which they launch on play stores. Don’t go for wallets that seek to control your funds, instead, exercise your due-diligence and consider wallets that don’t concentrate on your seed or private keys.
- Install an ad-blocker or anti-crypto miners on your browser – To combat crypto jacking, leading browsers including Firefox, Opera, and Google Chrome have developed ad-blockers with crypto mining detection capabilities. An example of such is the Adblock Plus which you can use to protect yourself. Additionally, these browsers offer dedicated anti-crypto miners’ extensions, which you can also use.
- Install strong antivirus software to your PC – The subtle nature of crypto jacking scripts makes it hard to be detected by some antivirus. However, you can use a reliable antivirus like Avast, the built-in Windows Defender antivirus or Malwarebytes for Mac to protect your PC from crypto jacking attacks.
How can Organizations protect themselves from cryptojacking attacks?
- Monitor Network Traffic – Organizations should monitor network traffic to their website all the time to detect unusual activity. This technique can easily detect cryptojacking attacks and remove the script in time.
- Train employees on crypto jacking attacks – Organizations should train their employees to be able to recognize phishing-type attempts which precede crypto jacking attacks easily. These attempts can be detected in time and turned down before a full-blown attack is executed.
- Monitor Network Configurations – Organizations, should try and monitor risky and unusual configurations. This tactic involves the use of networking tools to discover new network resources, as well as ensure that a password protects every entry point.
Whoever the real Satoshi is, he/she must have intended to smoothen things in the financial world. Sadly, felonious-minded individuals are manipulating the perks of crypto technology to rip off people. Seemingly unfortunate, as technology advances, these crypto scammers seem to be fine-tuning their skills with more well-calibrated mechanisms.
Therefore, the fact that crypto jacking attacks cause tremendous losses for both organizations and individual uses means that it should be prevented at all costs. Use the tips above to protect yourself, as well as your organization from such malicious attacks.