What Is Cryptojacking_ How To Detect and Prevent It_

What Is Cryptojacking? How To Detect and Prevent It?

Today, we are much more dependent on the online transaction, and if I am not wrong it is quite convenient while shopping online. Digital transactions not only helps us making transaction but also has raised various security concerns, like credit card skimming, fake online transactions and monetary frauds.

I will surely discuss about about securing online transaction, but here is what I am talking about is the term “cryptojacking“.

Before knowing about cryptojacking, you should known about cryptocurrencies.

What is cryptocurrency?

Cyptourrency is a digital/virtual currency that is leverages blockchain technology. These are digital currency are used buy/exchange goods and services. These form a decentralized system to maintain transparency, and immutability between the buyers and sellers.

Cryptocurrencies are exchanged between two people via private and public keys. Its a kind of tokens, like you have see in casinos which are later exchanged in the form money.  Cryptocurrency was first invented by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009 and currency named as Bitcoin. He intended to develop a centralized cash system that can be managed digitally. The digital accounts are known as wallets that has an address. People can used this cryypto wallet address to send and receive digital coins.

Today cryptocurrencies are globally excepted and many people like to earn money via buying and selling of crypto currencies. Some of the examples are: Monero, Ethereum, and Zcash and so on.

What is Crytomining?

Cryptocurrencies are generated via a process called cryptomining. The mining is done by cryptominers which uses computers, servers, networks and hardware to compute complex programs. As said earlier, it leverages blockchain technology, that adds a ledger- a kind to time-tamped record and a hash function that allows another block to join the chain. Whenever, a block a joined and its information is verified, the cryptominer earn a cryptocurrency.

With any new technology and invention, there comes various risks factors. As the cryptocurrencies gained popularity, its value increased drastically. This is when the cyber-criminals got their focus onto it.

Aside to Ransomware attacks, crytojacking is now one of the potential risks to the computer users as well as owners of crypto-currency. Due to its high value, the cyber-criminals thought it to be highly profitable. Cryptojacking is rather a very simple process and yet it is hard to detect it on any affected system.

What is cryptojacking?

Cryptojacking is the term being used to define the mining of crypto-currencies by exploiting the computing resources and networks of compromised system. As cryptocurrency gaining popularity due to its non-centralized nature, it cannot be traced by the government. And are easily used by cyber criminals like Ransomware to make transactions digitally. Hackers also take advantage of this to make huge money.

But as the mining process needs lots of CPU and GPU resources, they do it by dropping malicious javaScript codes and fake extensions to the web browser that starts executing within the background momentarily.

While users are unaware of such happenings on their browser, Cryptojackers mislead users by showing ads, stream videos, games and so on. Earlier it started with CoinHive- that allows website owners to use the computing power of their visitors to mine for Monero (XMR).

Now, there are lots of similar to this being discovered that are stealthily hijacking the browsers to run the mining script within the background. This uses the CPU power of the attacked system to generate crypto-currency like Bitcoin and Monero.

Cryptojacking Proccess
Cryptojacking Proccess

Website Owners Uses Cryptomining

Nowadays, various website owners also use crypto mining scripts while users visit their web site to earn extra profits and keep their sites running. The most popular to this was “The Pirate Bay” which is the world’s most popular torrent website confessed using Monero cryptocurrency miner on its websites.

Cryptojacking involves hijacking the computer’s resources via few codes that are silently used for mining. Cybercriminals uses the resources to either mine currency or steal the coins of the cryptocurrency owner from their wallets.

As wallet address are alphanumeric long random characters, so it is hard to remember that, often the owners use copy/paste to enter their address. So, the hackers can steal the data from the clipboard and even replace the address from their own.

As a result the device seriously lack performance, drained CPU and GPU resources and even left with huge electricity bills.

What are the Types of Cryptojacking?

There are mainly 3 types of cryptojacking that are used to stealthily hijack the computer resources to mine for cryptocurrency.

  1. File-based : In this, malware is downloaded on the target system, it further executes malicious codes that infect the system with mining script. The script then runs in the background and uses the computer resources to mine the cryptocurrency.
  2. Browser-based : This cryptojacking attacks occurs within a web browser. Cybercriminals uses a mining script based on JavaScript that are embedded on websites. When user visits any such websites, the scripts runs automatically and downloads the mining code on the computer, further leading to cryptocurrency mining.
  3. Cloud-based : Cloud based cryptojacking generally targets organizations. It searches for API keys within the organization’s files. Through, this they can access the cloud services, after which they consume all the CPU resources for their cryptomining process.

How to Detect Cryptojacking On Your System

Detection cryptojacking on the system is difficult. As it uses scripts can evade the detection. However, there are some symptoms that might worry you as this can be a sign of cryptojacking.

For example, users encountering high CPU usage when they visit a particular website. If you notice your browser becoming extremely slow, lots of ads and pop-ups appearing on the web page out of nowhere on your browser. These can be signs of cryptojacking.

→Check Your CPU Usage:

It is very important step, which can help you detect cryptominers. Simply open the Task Manager window and Mac users can go to Activity Monitor, to check if the CPU showing more than 90% usage. Go in details to check for which website or process is consuming your resources. If you find so, quickly click on End Task and then run an anti-malware scan to detect and remove any malware.

→Check For Fake Extensions or Websites Loading Too Much Ads:

Often compromised websites loads malicious ads that runs the script to download the mining program on the system that further mine for cryptocurrency. Other sources could be fake extensions, outdated plugins, browser hijackers.

→Device Overheating:

Presence of cryptojacking can lead to continuous device overheating. This leads to damage to the hardware components and also lessens the life span of the device. So, if your device is overheating again and again, then it may be a sign of cryptominer.

→Decrease In System Performance:

Cryptomining leads to potential decrease in system performance, so if you are facing issues while running any application, playing games, or watching videos. Often system may crash down or applications may stop running.

→Huge Electricity Bills:

Due to huge consumption of system resources, compromised users may have to bear huge electricity bills. So, keep a check on that, it can also be a sign of the cryptojacking present on your device.

→Scan Your Computer:

There are various cryptominer malware that are active now a days. So like cryptojacking, such malware also consumes system resources and connect the mining pool to silently mine the cryptocurrency. So, you should use a security program to help easily detect any malicious programs, entries or codes hidden on your system.

How To Prevent Cryptojacking?

Most of the websites running crypto-mining scripts use the service from cyptomining programs. These offers a JavaScript code for mining which embeds websites. While the user is busy in playing games, streaming videos or seeing advertisements, the miner auto-executes within the browser and generates Monero coins for the website owners. Website owners do this to keep their site running and earn extra income.

As the mining process requires huge CPU power so may not want your resources to be misused by hackers or any other websites.

Here are few quick things you can do prevent cryptojacking:

  • Use browser extensions to block the sites that uses JavaScript codes for in-browser mining:

For Chrome browser, you can use No Coin or MinerBlock  Chrome extensions that are the free and most effective methods that can be used to block cryptocurrency mining within the Google Chrome browser. These extensions automatically block popular and most widely used mining domains, and don’t worry the extensions will be adding more and more such domains with their usage. 

For Firefox Browser, you can use NoScripts extension. This extension aggressively blocks almost all the scripts running on the websites. So you may not be part of the visited websites. You can use this extension to get rid of cryptocurrency mining.

  • Use Ad blockers to block malicious cryptomining scripts:

Ad blocking extensions such as AdBlock can be useful to stop websites running mining scripts in web browsers. Whichever browser you may be using, you can search for “Ad blocking” extensions.

Within its settings you can list the domain name or URL to completely block them. Even if you are not sure, you can have a hit and trial method on any suspicious website. 

For Opera Browser, there is an in-built functionality that blocks CoinHive and its scripts. Using this feature user can block the websites that make use of CoinHive scripts or other cryptocurrency mining techniques. You can find this option under:

  • Disable JavaScript:

While disabling the Javascript may affect the website view as many of the sections are displayed using Javascript. However, if you want to prevent cryptojacking, then try out disabling the Javascript from the web browsers.

Hope this article was helpful to you.

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