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What is Crypto mining malware and how is it dominating cyber security

When we talk about cryptocurrency you are most likely to think of Bitcoin, Litecoin, and the innovative technology behind it. But there is a lesser-known fact about cryptocurrency that is currently affecting businesses globally. Crypto mining malware is the latest cybersecurity threat that is lurking around in cybersecurity and the digital world. A growing number of cybercriminals have turned from ransomware to access unauthorized computers to mine cryptocurrencies. The losses for the victim or company, due to such increased incidents have drastically spiked over the years. Moreover, the attacks are not always easy to detect, and so may continue exploiting for a longer period. In this article today we have briefly covered details on crypto-mining malware to understand how it works and affects the cybersecurity industry.  

What is Crypto mining

Crypto mining malware, also known as cryptocurrency mining malware, refers to software programs and malware components developed to attack an unauthorized system and use resources for cryptocurrency mining. Generally, hackers will infiltrate a system by tricking people into clicking on a malicious link in an email or infect a website to gain access. Hacking into systems for resources can result in a complete shutdown and total systems failure. What more dangerous about such incidents is that Crypto-mining malware is attractive because it can go undetected for a very long time.

How does crypto mining work?

 

Crypto Mining involves the hacking of a system in two ways. So, one way for a hacker to get access to an unauthorized system to mine cryptocurrencies is by tricking victims into loading crypto mining code onto their computers. This is done through phishing emails wherein the victims receive a legitimate-looking email that encourages them to click on a link. The link runs code and places the crypto mining script on the computer. The script then runs in the background as the victim works.

The other method is to inject a script on a website or an ad that is accessed by the victims. Once victims visit the website or the infected ad pops up in their browsers, the script automatically executes. No code is stored on the victims’ computers. So, in both ways, the code runs complex mathematical problems on the victims’ computers and sends the results to a server that the hacker controls.

 

Hackers often use either of the two methods to maximize their return. Some crypto mining scripts have worming capabilities that infect other devices and servers on a network. It also makes them harder to find and remove thus maintaining access to the system for a longer period of time for better financial gains. Unlike most other types of malware, crypto mining scripts do not damage the computers or victims’ data. However, they slower computer performance or even lead to a system failure at times. 

Crypto mining a Growing Epidemic

 

The popularity of cryptocurrencies has continued to grow drastically over the past decade and this has drawn significant attention to various digital hackers. Cybercriminals are now employing unconventional means to acquire cryptocurrencies, especially via crypto-mining malware attacks. Crypto mining malware has become so prevalent of late that it is estimated that more than 500 million users are mining cryptocurrencies on their devices without realizing it. The user’s system either gets infected by a crypto mining malware program or by visiting a website that secretly runs crypto mining software in the background without the user's consent. While many crypto-mining malware target desktops and laptops to mine cryptocurrency, others target smartphones and tablets. It can be a menace if your systems are not adequately protected. The malware can impair system performance and risk businesses to information theft, hijacking, and a plethora of other issues. Indeed, their adverse impact on the devices they infect and their victims makes them a credible threat. 

Final Thought - 

To prevent or avoid falling prey to such incidents businesses and users need to take measures against known vulnerabilities/threats like socially engineered links, attachments or files from suspicious websites, dubious third-party software/applications, and unsolicited emails. Proactively monitoring network traffic helps better identify potential threats that may indicate a malware infection. Further, developing strong control measures against web injections, securing email gateway, and implementing best practices for corporate mobile devices will strengthen the security of your IT Infrastructure. Additionally, conducting a cybersecurity awareness program as a part of the defence will also help reduce businesses ' exposure to threats. 

Author: Narendra Sahoo is a director of VISTA InfoSec, One of the foremost companies in InfoSec Compliance, Assessments and Consulting services providing vendor neutral services in areas such as PCI DSS, PCI PIN, SOC 2 Certification and Audit, GDPR, HIPAA, MAS TRM, PDPA, PDPB, VA/PT,Web/Mobile Appsec, Red Team Assessment etc.

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