Cryptojacking: How you might be funding hackers without knowing it.

A new form of cyber-attack has recently reared its ugly head. It is being commonly referred to as cryptojacking. This process hijacks the victim’s computer to mine cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin.  What is truly worrying is that no program needs to be installed on the machine for this to occur. Instead, hackers infect a website with malicious JavaScript code that starts running when the page is loaded in a web browser like Chrome or Firefox

Unlike more common malware, cryptojacking scripts do not target user data or aim to harm the device. The goal is to utilize the processing power of the target machine to perform complex equations which yields the currency they are after. For most of those infected, the only sign would be a degradation in overall computer performance. When compounded, this could lead to replacing perfectly fine servers and computers to remedy the newly occurring “slowness”.

Adguard, a company that provides ad blocking software, conducted a cryptojacking study late last year. They found that over 33,000 websites are currently running a cryptomining script and those sites receive over 1 billion visits a month. The scale is already staggering and will continue to grow thanks in part to the availability of the malicious scripts.

It is expected that we see a continued increase in cryptojacking due to the level of anonymity it provides the attacker. Cryptojacking is far less likely to be traced back to the perpetrator than traditional malware. Not only does the code run undetected longer than most malware, it also does not steal data or encrypt files. Leaving the victim with little motivation to attempt to trace the source of the infection.

The best way to combat a threat like this is the same as any other cyber-attack, awareness. From the IT team to the reception desk, everyone should know what they are clicking on and who sent them there. A sizable number of these sites generate traffic by getting someone to click a link from a phishing style email. Another reminder to scrutinize links that show up in your inbox. Keeping your machines up to date with the most recent antivirus patches, a service we offer to our customers, is a step in the right direction to combat this new threat.

We would also recommend that you review your browser’s add-ins and extensions. Take some time to look at your Chrome, Firefox or other browser extension list and remove anything you do not recognize. Ad blocker software can also be a viable defense as the preferred delivery method is through web ads. Check out ad blockers like MinerBlock or No Coin if you are looking for a reliable way to prevent your machine from falling prey to this new menace.

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