Cryptojacking: The New Threat That You Don’t Know Anything About But Should

I remember the good old days…. As in six months ago where I would be called by clients to investigate and remove browser add ons that just magically appeared, or adware that got installed via a browser that visited an infected website. That still does happen, but I am getting a new call from my clients to address a new threat called cryptojacking.

Now you’ve likely never heard of cryptojacking, so here’s a rundown on what it is. A website can have a JavaScript installed on it that uses the browser of a website visitor to get at the CPU of that computer to mine cryptocurrency. Specifically Monero coins which are harder to trace than Bitcoin. So in short, this is a money making scheme that uses the CPU power of your computer to do it. Typically, the website that has the JavaScript has been pwned by hackers and this code is installed. But some unscrupulous site owners have installed these scripts themselves to make a few extra bucks. JavaScript isn’t the only attack vector as it’s also been seen on self hosted WordPress sites (as opposed to WordPress.com hosted sites like this one) via plug-ins. Plus there are other means to do this that don’t rely on JavaScript or WordPress that are starting to appear.

So, how do you know if you’ve been hit by one of these cryptojackers? Simple. You visit a website with a cryptojacker installed on it and you’ll notice almost immediately that your computer will slow down. If you were to open Task Manager on Windows or Activity Monitor on Mac, you’ll notice that the browser that you’re using at the time is consuming up to 100% of the CPU power. Terminating the browser usually brings things back to normal. And typically, nothing gets left behind on your computer.

Now this issue started to appear last month. But in the last couple of weeks it’s really become pervasive. Websites all over the world that are owned by major corporations to someone who hosts cat videos have been affected. And it’s growing by the day. Thus you have to protect yourself. I would suggest a two part strategy to protect yourself:

  1. Disabling JavaScript in your browser settings is the first step as many of these cryptojackers are JavaScript base. Thus simply disabling JavaScript in your browser makes a lot of these cryptojackers non issues. This is a good article that tells you how to disable JavaScript in the browser of your choice.
  2. Using a script-blocking addon or installing an extension specifically designed to prevent coin mining in the browser, like MinerBlock or No Coin is your next step as those will protect you from the non-JavaScript cryptojackers.
  3. Always have a good anti-virus program installed as you never know when these cryptojackers will evolve to the point where they install something onto your computer to do their evil work.

Seeing as this is an evolving threat, you’re going to hear more about cryptojackers soon enough. And the means to defend yourself will start to shrink. Thus the real way to stop this is for governments to go after the people who do this. Wishful thinking I know. But outside of that, there’s no real incentive for the people behind cryptojacking to stop their activities. And that’s not good for anyone.

 

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