Cryptojacking: An Emerging Threat for Business Technology

05/29/2018

Step aside, ransomware. The new kid on the block is called cryptojacking – and it’s hitting a lot more computers.

As you read previously on this blog, ransomware has become a booming industry, run somewhat like an MLM. Like all pyramid schemes, the ransomware business model works well… for the people on the top. However, the small-time hacker crooks who are looking to make a quick buck have now turned to a new cyberattack method that’s less likely to get stopped by the FBI and is more likely to provide a steady, reliable income.

It’s called “cryptojacking,” and it’s the newest cybercrime danger for your business technology.

What Is Cryptojacking?

As the name suggests, “cryptojacking” is the process of hijacking a computer system, mobile device, or IoT device for the purposes of mining cryptocurrency.

But let’s back up just a second here to explain the cryptocurrency mining process, because this might seem confusing to people.

Wait, What’s This About Mining Cryptocurrencies?

Let’s start with the basics. Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, Dash, and Monero are “mined” by miners who dedicate vast amounts of computing resources toward, in essence, unlocking cryptocurrency coins and adding them to the general currency pool.

This is not, by the way, an illegal activity. There are legitimate miners with impressive computer systems who spend all their time and energy mining cryptocurrencies. It’s an okay way to make a living, as long as you’re all right with paying a high electric bill to run and cool your computers.

The idea of “mining” is rather an apt analogy for cryptocurrency production because of how the process works. (Hang on a second while we explain this, and you’ll realize why this can be terrible for your business technology. Yes, yours!)

First off, cryptocurrency mining requires miners to uncover cryptocoins by solving a lot of algorithms. An algorithm is like a complex, computer-driven procedure. It can look like a math problem or just a series of tedious, time-consuming activities that a computer must perform in order to complete a task. Making a computer solve mining algorithms is a lot like when you or I have to jump through meaningless administrative hoops. It takes time and it’s dull, but it’s not that hard.

So, if you imagine all these algorithms as rocks that surround a diamond in a diamond mine, and you imagine that the Bitcoin (or other cryptocurrency) is the diamond—and then you think about the fact that miners get paid per “diamond”—you can see why cryptocurrency miners would want to chip away the “rocks” (solve algorithms) for as many “diamonds” (cryptocoins) as possible. It also makes sense why they want to mine the diamonds quickly.

In our analogy, this high-speed mining process takes a lot of pickaxes. And with cryptojacking, your business technology gets hijacked to help out as a pickaxe. (See? We told you this would all circle back to you!)

So, what does this look like on your end? Well, if your computer is processing tasks really slowly all of a sudden, or it’s crashing a lot, or it’s running its fans a lot more than usual, your computer may have been cryptojacked.

And, by the way, if you’re still unsure about the whole cryptocurrency/Bitcoin phenomenon, you’re not alone. John Oliver explains cryptocurrencies quite well in this video if you want to know more.

…Back to Cryptojacking

Now that you (sort of) understand cryptocurrency mining, you may be interested to learn that cryptojacking is on the rise. In Q4 2017, only 13% of organizations had been affected by cryptojacking, but by Q1 2018—only a few months later—that number had more than doubled and 28% of organizations had been affected!

Experts suggest that this type of hacking may be on the rise because:

  • Cybercriminals can use any system’s resources as a “pickaxe,” including your iPhone, your Samsung Galaxy Tab, FitBit, Nest thermostat, Amazon Echo… anything connected to the Internet can be used because hackers are simply looking for numbers to lend more computing power. Every little bit helps them.
  • Cryptojacking can attack any device, any operating system, and can mine any cryptocurrency.
  • Hackers make 100% of the profits on cryptojacking because it’s not a pyramid scheme like ransomware is.
  • Cryptojacking has a great rate of return. Just 15,000 hacked IoT gadgets, including your business technology, can mine $1,000 worth of cryptocurrency in a mere 4 days. Do the math. Over $91,000 a year is a darn good salary.

Learn How to Identify a Cryptojacking Attack and Protect Your Business Technology

In our next article, we’ll discuss 3 ways you can identify a cryptojacking attack, so you can tell if your business technology systems have been compromised, and we’ll talk about how you can protect your systems starting now.

If you can’t wait for the next article or you suspect you may have already become the victim of an attack, don’t wait to get help: contact the experts now.

Since 2001, Interplay has been a leader in managed services for small businesses, offering a range of tailored solutions for a varied client base.

Interplay can help you ensure that your systems stay protected and malware-free with our personalized IT security services that combine remote monitoring and backup with hands-on tech help when you need it.

Contact Interplay to learn more about how you can protect all your business technology from cryptojacking and other malicious attacks.

Check out Part 2 of this series, so you can learn how to tell if you’ve been cryptojacked.

 

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