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Cryptojacking: What it is and how to prevent it

Recent findings on this cyber threat show how its hacking computer resources.


WEBWIRE

Google announced Monday a ban on all Chrome extensions in the Chrome Web Store used to cryptojack computers. This newer form of hacking uses these extensions to get into a victim’s computer and use its resources to mine cryptocurrency. A blog post from the tech giant states that around 90% of these cryptojacking extensions were ignoring Google’s policies, instead using these extensions to host crypto-mining code.

Cryptojacking is often done without the victim knowing, and can seriously slow down computer performance by draining the Central Processing Unit (CPU) power. With the increase in the popularity of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, many criminals are using cryptojacking to pull in profit. A blog by Cisco’s Harini Pasupuleti carefully outlines the way this malware works: malicious users plant JavaScript on a web browser that uses CPU to mine cryptocurrencies. The crime is deemed dangerous because it exhausts the system resources and degrades the victim’s computer performance.

Cisco’s Talos team also released a blog in January that explains how this “digital gold rush” has seen an increase in malicious cryptocurrency miners. The cyber threat intelligence team writes that one of the most popular mining targets, Moreno, saw a 3000% increase in 2017.

“What we have seen is a shift away from ransomware to cryptomining,” says Talos Outreach Manager Mitch Neff, “The question is, is that better or worse? Data isn’t lost, but resources are stolen, power bills increase at scale, and productivity takes a hit… these all cost real dollars to a company.”

See also: In-Security: See what it’s like to constantly monitor security threats

In February, it was reported that Tesla was a victim of cryptojacking, showing that individuals and big corporations alike can all face vulnerabilities to the activity. Wired reports that some of Tesla’s Amazon Web Services cloud infrastructure was found to be running the mining malware. Although this was fixed quickly and data exposure was reported to be minimal, it still demonstrated how prone anyone can be.

“In the short term, the shift to cryptomining from ransomware has great appeal,” says Talos Senior Technical Leader and Security Outreach Manager Craig Williams, “Networks stay up and services remain intact. The problem is, this business model can potentially leave the bad guys with more money than ever before.”

So how can one prevent malware like this? It’s important to be proactive about protecting your computer:

  • Use Task Manager for Windows or Activity Monitor for Mac OS X to see if there are spikes in resource usage when visiting certain websites.
  • Disable JavaScript in the browser.

It’s crucial to be aware of current threats and malware in order to keep yourself and your organization secure. Learn everything you need to know about cybersecurity with Cisco’s 2018 Annual Cybersecurity Report, where experts break down everything from malware sophistication to encryption and machine learning.


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