Cybercriminals and hackers have been extensively using other people’s computers, mobile devices, and even Internet-connected home appliances to secretly mine cryptocurrencies in Q2 2018, according to the latest report released by McAfee Labs.
The number of cases where user devices were infected with cryptocurrency mining malware increased by 86 percent during the reporting period, and the targeted devices are not limited to personal computers and servers.
“A few years ago, we wouldn’t think of internet routers, video-recording devices, and other Internet of Things devices as platforms for cryptomining because their CPU speeds were too insufficient to support such productivity. Today, the tremendous volume of such devices online and their propensity for weak passwords present a very attractive platform for this activity,” McAfee experts said in the research paper.
What is Cryptojacking?
To avoid the costs associated with the crypto mining process, hackers penetrate into somebody else’s computer systems and infect them with malware — taking control of them and their capabilities.
Ultimately, cryptojackers hijack other people’s devices to earn money.
Who is Vulnerable?
To put it simply, everyone who has an Internet-enabled device is at risk.
Don’t get lulled into complacency just because your 10-year old cell phone or laptop computer is too slow to mine coins. Cryptojackers will aggregate the power from numerous devices and earn money at your expense, while you will struggle with an overloaded processor and even slower performance.
How’s it work?
Hackers use two main tactics to get their hands on victim’s devices:
- The first one is based on a phishing-like method, which implies that a user receives a legitimate-looking email and clicks on a link that runs a malicious code and installs a cryptomining script on their device.
- The second method infects a website or an advertisement that is displayed on various sites. The cryptomining script runs automatically once the ad pops up in a browser.
There are also a number of key risk factors, including:
- Weak or no password;
- Outdated Internet security product
- A reckless habit of opening attachments in emails and installing software from unknown sources
- Downloading files from the internet
Recent Cryptojacking Cases
Cybercriminals often don’t care where their illegal profits come from.
Recently, illegal mining via malicious software made its way onto victims’ computers via fake installer updates for Adobe Flash. Instead of a legitimate plugin, unsuspecting users installed a hidden program for mining Monero (XMR).
In some cases, cryptojackers target specific groups, rather than a broad field of Internet users.
Earlier this year, cryptomining malware was masked as a mod for popular online games and distributed among Russian gamers on a dedicated forum. The gamers downloaded the virus that turned their computers into cryptomining stations.
Another target group popular among cryptojackers is large institutional networks capable of providing vast resources in one place. The most recent such case happened in Canada.
Last week, St. Francis Xavier University was forced to disable its entire network infrastructure for four days after it was targeted by crypto mining malware attempting to use the system’s computing power to mine cryptocurrency. The institution retaliated against the detected bitcoin mining attack by issuing a total network shutdown to safeguard users’ personal data and root out the threat.
While experts were fixing the security breach, the University network was paralyzed. The users had no access to email services, Wi-Fi, debit transactions, and cloud storage. The online course system was also disrupted.
The system was back online only on Monday. Currently, it is reported to be functioning normally, and it was confirmed that no sensitive data breach had been detected. St. Francis Xavier University still intends to keep on monitoring the situation and the network for “suspicious activity” in the coming week.
What do you think about cryptojacking? Have you ever been cryptojacked? Let us know in the comments below!
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