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Top Cyber Security Threats for 2019: Cryptojacking

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By: lpark

June 23, 2019

Cryptojacking is an attack used to illicitly generate cryptocurrency. Coin mining clients are installed covertly on target devices and run as a hidden background process. Preventing cryptojacking means securing network communications and performing regular vulnerability analysis.Cryptocurrency provides many new opportunities through legitimate and illicit means. As profitable cryptocurrency mining ventures require access to powerful hardware, cryptojacking has emerged as a method of secretly using infected hardware for mining. This may take the form of viruses, hidden mining clients, and the creation of botnets. This section will explore the origins of cryptojacking, threat cryptojacking poses to an organization’s security, and real world examples of cryptojacking attacks.Cryptojacking developed with the advent of the world’s first decentralized cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. Mining clients allowed anyone with a PC to generate coins at the cost of electricity usage. Designed as a sort of virtual gold, the rush to mine Bitcoins created an intentional scarcity and increased hardware requirements for mining. Cryptojacking was developed as a way to compromise many systems and illicitly meet these mining requirements. Mining clients are covertly installed on targeted devices to quietly generate cryptocoins. This has a negative effect on system performance and typically indicates a flaw in the network’s security. Detecting and removing cryptojacking programs from your network requires careful traffic analysis.Cryptojacking is not a typical threat, but its popularity is increasing as cryptocurrency mining becomes more difficult. The main indicator of a program like this is unauthorized or irregular anomalies in network activity. An unrecognized or unauthorized program can reveal outside communications while monitoring a network. Similarly, network logs can be analyzed for programs that run covertly or use up system resources without explanation. Cryptojacking can be a drain on system resources, and left undetected, it could lead to serious unexplained slowdowns. Furthermore, cryptojacking reveals flaws in network security that allows access to attackers. Cryptojacking is mostly a threat if an organization is not monitoring or performing analysis.One popular target for cryptojacking is the cryptocurrency known as Monero. This cryptocurrency is designed to be mined on nearly any device and the mining process is completely anonymous. This allows attackers to install many clients on a wide variety of devices. While the mining clients themselves are spread out across devices, they can be pointed to a central wallet for anonymous collection and storage. These techniques were developed in response to previously used ransomware and phishing attacks. Attackers are constantly seeking new points of access that security systems cannot predict, and the development of cryptojacking is no different.In short, cryptojacking poses a very different kind of threat to organizational security. The covert nature of the attack leads to hidden costs and unexplained slowdowns, and the unusual application can make it very difficult to detect. The ultimate impact of a cryptojacking attack is organizational slowdown, unforeseen utility costs, and active evidence of a network security flaw. Preventing cryptojacking requires careful monitoring of network communications and background processes. Cryptojacking is a passive cybersecurity threat that provides a dangerous indication of network security. Network monitoring and vulnerability analysis are the main methods of preventing a cryptojacking attack.
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