“Instead of Offering you a Trojan or Ransomware, They use your Machine, your CPU, your Electricity, and Turn that into Money” - Jarkko Turkulainen
It is said that money and profit acts as a huge incentive for equally good and evil acts. Profiteering and the intention to acquire financial resources have emerged as one of the crucial factors behind Cyber Attacks and Threats.
Moreover, this has only exacerbated in the rising trend of online shopping, internet surfing and online financial transactions.
Cyber criminals have developed new forms of crimes that have become more and more sophisticated and difficult to trace and track. One such attack, which has developed in recent times, is that of Cryptojacking. This form of cybercrime involves using the victim's computing power to mine cryptocurrencies.
So what is Cryptojacking? What is Cryptojacking malware? How to detect Cryptojacking and what are the strategies to prevent Cryptojacking? Let's delve into these questions.
In this blog, we shall explore what Cryptojacking is and how it works. We will also look at ways to detect and prevent Cryptojacking attacks by identifying the presence of cryptomining code on a computer or mobile device.
What is Cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrencies are encrypted digital/electronic money/currencies which exist only in the online-virtual world and is used for facilitating financial transactions for the purchase of goods and services.
They are characterised by potential, anonymity and growth and are essentially created by way of fusing computer program and computer processing power, in what is known as the blockchain technology.
The first cryptocurrency which came into prominence was Bitcoin in 2009. It was created by Satoshi Nakamoto (pseudonym) with the intention of developing a digital cash system for guaranteeing transparency and accuracy of balances, accounts and recording of transactions. Unlike conventional currencies, cryptocurrencies are not backed by specific banks or government.
There is no governmental supervision and it is regulated and decentralised in multiple databases across a network of computer systems which are not owned by a single entity.
What is Cryptomining?
The idea of cryptomining can be understood in different ways. In one sense, it refers to the process of verifying transactions happening on the blockchain. In other words, it is the process of adding transactions to the blockchain ledger whereby the miner updates the blockchain and verify that the information is authentic.
In another sense, cryptomining can be seen as a process wherein specialized computer systems execute calculations which are important for securing, recording and verifying transactions on the blockchain.
It entails the involvement of tremendous computing power, mining hardware as well as electricity. But why would individuals incur such huge costs in order to mine coins? The answer lies in the nature of the process of cryptomining.
It operates as a gamble wherein each computer system within a network competes in order to be at the top in guessing a 64-digit hexadecimal number which is known as the ‘hash’.
Once the encryption is solved, the solution checks out, and is certified by the system as legitimate; the miner who solved it is rewarded with certain amount of cryptocurrency.
It is evident that the only requisite for conducting cryptomining is the existence of a computer. However, the computer needs to be extremely powerful, supporting enormous power consumption, in order to be able to race with other devices for solving problems on the blockchain.
What is Cryptojacking?
Cryptojacking is a malicious form of cryptomining. It is a variant of Cyber crime which involves hacking into the victim’s computer system, in order to surreptitiously use it for mining cryptocurrency at the cost of the victim’s resources or stealing cryptocurrency from wallets of other individuals.
As already stated, cryptomining involves huge costs as well as large overheads. Thus, by way of cryptojacking, hackers are able to adopt a short cut wherein they are able to avoid the cost and still utilize someone else’s resources, in order to reap profit.
The type of cryptocurrency which happens to be the prime target of Cryptojackers, is Monero. It is preferred over other types of cryptocurrencies, primarily because it is difficult to trace.
Since Cryptojacking merely involves the secretive usage of the victim’s computer system; in one way it might seem to be a harmless crime.
However, there are definitely reasons for concern. In the first place, the whole activity is non-consensual. When you think of what is Cryptojacking attacks, you should be able to understand that it is carried out without the consent or the knowledge of the victim and serves the vested interest of the criminal who starts creating currency, illicitly.
Moreover, Cryptojacking results in serious issues for the victim, primarily in the form of increased processor usage, higher electricity bills, slower computer response time and overheating devices. Once the computer is hijacked, its functionality is compromised, resulting in siphoning of profits to the wallets of Cyber criminals.