Cryptojacking: A New Cyber Threat

Crime, Innovation, News | October 18, 2018 By:

Just when you thought ransomware was the worst thing business websites would have to contend with as the 2010s near their close, the hydra known as cybercrime has sprouted a new head: cryptojacking.

Cryptojacking is the process of using another computer or many computers without permission to mine cryptocurrency. It’s particularly vexing because it’s not installing anything resembling spyware, adware, or information-stealing viruses onto the systems it invades. Instead, it is absorbing their processing power for its own purposes, something that isn’t all that easy to detect.

How It Works

Hackers use old-school phishing techniques to get users to click on a link that imports the crypto mining code. The more popular, effective way is to infect part of a website such as an online ad with code that self-executes when it is loaded by a browser. But singular computers only produce so much processing power that can be diverted to crypto mining. That’s why hackers are going after the most immense target of all when it comes to online power sources: cloud environments.

Cryptojacking Cloud Environments

Big businesses are prime targets for cryptojacking because of their cloud resources. Hackers target cloud environments that have weak spots, such as those that are misconfigured to the point they don’t need a password to log on.

Research shows that 49% of databases existing in the cloud are not encrypted. Using massive scanners, hackers scour the Internet for weak cloud environments. They can also query public cloud metadata APIs to obtain credentials.

Is Bitcoin Being Threatened?

Fortunately for bitcoin investors, the world’s oldest cryptocurrency is also likely the safest when it comes to being threatened by illegal cryptojacking. Why? Because its irreversible blockchain technology includes very public, traceable records of all transactions. If a single user suddenly started generating massive amounts of mining, it would set off all sorts of red flags across the community. Hackers are more apt to stick with anonymous cryptocurrencies, such as Zcash and Monero, because they are much harder to trace.

How Do Data Centers Protect Against Cryptojacking?

It might not be the magic pill that cloud environments are looking for, but the simplest answer is to mind the store correctly and avoid misconfigurations that draw cybercriminals to your front door. Enterprises need to move beyond the basic setups offered by their cloud hosts and understand exactly what they’re facing and impose limits against that type of intrusion. Both cloud environments and containers must be configured properly or run the risk of being exposed and exploited.

In February 2018, Tesla revealed it had been hit hard by a cryptojacking attack. In a company of its size, the upsurge in processing power and the cost of said power went unnoticed. Data centers that want to avoid falling into the same trap must have parameters in place that raise alerts when power costs or usage rise above expected levels. This can allow companies with more control over their infrastructures to shut down illegal crypto mining as it is happening instead of finding out days, weeks, or months later.

Conclusion

Cryptojacking might be the newcomer to the cybercriminal world, but it’s rapidly gaining speed given its ease of use and long-term potential payout. Enterprises that aren’t in command of their own security or able to monitor their power usage will be the easiest targets of this crime going forward.