Late in 2017, the world witnessed a frenzy in the cryptocurrency markets as the price of Bitcoin reached nearly $18,000 USD. This led to a digital gold rush as everyone looked to cash in on this new commodity. At the same time however, this gave rise to a new type of malware: cryptojacking.
Cryptojacking, put simply, is when a PC/laptop, mobile device, or server is used to mine cryptocurrency for someone else. This type of malware doesn’t want to hold an organisation’s data hostage – as is the case with ransomware – instead it wants to steal your computational (CPU) resources. This is because cryptocurrency mining requires the computing of complex calculations to generate “hashes”, which are needed to earn the virtual reward.
What cryptojacking means to businesses
Cryptocurrency mining is costly in terms of time and resources. However, when a cybercriminal uses cryptojacking malware, the entire cost burden is shifted to the victim’s device. This includes the use of CPU power and incurring electricity (energy) costs, which fall to the users, who in many cases are unaware of the illicit activity taking place.
Cryptojacking malware can affect any device that has the ability to perform the mathematical computations needed for mining (hashing) for cryptocurrency. While a single device may not mine large sums of cryptocurrency, cybercriminals look to enslave as many devices as possible to maximise their profits. This is why operational awareness on how IT resources are being consumed is so important to security and IT professionals today.
Here’s how businesses can avoid falling victim to this type of attack.
1. Monitor all systems. Using a network monitor, businesses can better monitor their systems so that if a bug makes its way onto the network, it can be identified and reacted to immediately. With security, if organisations can catch the problem early enough, it’s likely they will be able to isolate it and minimise the damage.
2. Don’t leave doors open for cryptominers to enter through. This means keeping up to date with all patches. While patching may not stop or block cryptominers, it will address any vulnerabilities, making it harder for them to gain access, which could be the difference between a breach within an organisation’s network.
3. Review security policies and measures. While this should already be a practice carried out by organisations, it’s important that cryptojacking is identified as a key concern and systems that protect against this activity are implemented.
4. Stay up to date with the latest. IT professionals must be on top of what cryptojackers (and cybercriminals more broadly) are doing and what their latest techniques are. By having an in-depth understanding of the cybersecurity landscape, businesses will be better prepared for the latest trends and how to react to them.
There’s no doubt about it, cryptojacking has arrived, and is not going anywhere fast. Organisations must have access to the required tools in order to prevent and prepare for an attack to their network. Those that are able to identify threats quickly will have the best chance of avoiding the crippling costs of cryptomining and other threats to the business