Move Over, Ransomware. Cryptojacking Is Emerging as a Top Threat.

Ransomware is still a serious problem. But as awareness has increased and security measures have been enhanced, more hackers are turning to cryptojacking to make money. In fact, the number of cryptojacking attacks was nearly double the number of ransomware attacks in 2018, according to a recent report from IBM Security.

Cryptojacking is the unauthorized use of a computer, mobile device or server to mine cryptocurrencies. Hackers typically gain access to the device by using an email phishing scam to trick someone into clicking a malicious link, which triggers the download of crypto mining code on the device.

However, you don’t always have to do something careless to become a victim. If a hacker infects a website or online ad with JavaScript code, that code is automatically executed when the website or ad is loaded into your browser. Some hackers are using steganography to hide code in image files to avoid detection.

As the crypto mining code goes to work undetected, you might notice performance degradation, but disruption for the individual user typically isn’t severe. No code is stored on your computer, and no obvious damage is done to your device or data. The only thing hackers steal is the processing power they need to run complex cryptomining algorithms.

Last July, a Check Point research revealed that the top two forms of malware were cryptominers. Though still in its infancy, cryptojacking is on the rise for one simple reason. Compared to other attack techniques, cryptojacking is easy money. Risk is low, and the potential ROI is high, especially when botnets are used to automate attacks.

If you want to make money with ransomware, you have to get people to pay a fee. With cryptojacking, every infected computer continuously pays off by mining cryptocurrency. Cryptojacking is also more difficult to detect and trace, and victims aren’t as likely to report incidents. You don’t even have to be tech-savvy to launch a cryptojacking attack — just buy a kit on the dark web for as little as $30.

However, the business impact of cryptojacking is significant. In addition to performance degradation, which can affect productivity, batteries can overheat, other system components can deteriorate, and devices can become unusable. Organizations can end up dedicating a lot of time, money and resources to investigating performance problems and even replacing system components in an attempt to resolve the issue.

To reduce the risks involved with cryptojacking, make it part of your security training. Users should know what it is, how it spreads and the damage that can be done. Because devices can be exposed when users visit legitimate websites, you should investigate anti-cryptojacking browser extensions, as well as endpoint protection and antivirus software that can detect these threats.

To make sure your organization is prepared to identify and respond to attacks, keep all browser extensions and web filtering tools updated and stay on top of the latest cryptojacking trends. Users should be advised to not simply chalk up performance issues to a bad Internet connection. If these issues linger, components fail, or batteries drain quickly, report the problem.

Don’t wait until your devices start to fail before you take steps to stop cryptojacking. Let SSD help you deploy the right tools and train your staff to prevent attacks and minimize the impact.