Crypto Malware: How Do You Remain Secure From It? Cybersecurity threats change frequently, so stay aware. Cryptovirus is a growing threat. Recent estimates show that crypto malware attacks increased 400% from 2022 to over 300 million in the first half of 2023. This data is alarming because it suggests that cybercrime is changing and crypto-malware is getting more prominent. How would you define crypto malware? Crypto malware steals processing power from computers and other devices to mine Bitcoin.
Crypto malware does this through crypto-jacking. Stolen processing power is sometimes used to mine privacy-focused cryptocurrencies like Monero XMR $156, which have complex obfuscation methods that authorities can’t track. However, Coinhive released the first public cryptojacking program in 2017. The script allowed web admins to put mining code on their websites to use visitors’ devices’ processing power. Crypto malware attacks skyrocketed in the following years, indicating a worrying trend.
Crypto Malware Attacks are Rising—Why and How?
Hackers are shifting from active cybersecurity threats like ransomware to passive ones like crypto malware. According to cybersecurity experts, numerous factors have contributed to this paradigm shift. One significant advantage is that cryptojacking attacks aren’t as dangerous as other methods that anti-crime authorities deal with, like ransomware. Also, there is some ambiguity around whether or not crypto mining is unlawful, which gives terrible actors more cover to operate.
Criminal organizations increasingly target processing power theft due to the low-cost nature of crypto-malware attacks. Theft of computing power is exceptionally cheap, and the booty may be turned into cash with little effort. This feature makes cryptojacking incredibly appealing to criminal organizations. Also, browser vulnerabilities and other low-level exploits used in cryptojacking assaults are more challenging to detect than traditional malware.
Another reason for the increase in crypto-malware assaults is the broad use of Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices. Compared to computers, security measures on IoT devices are often lacking, making them more susceptible to exploitation. Hackers see them as easy prey because of this. Because of this, the attack surface for crypto virus attacks is unintentionally raised.
Crypto Malware vs. Ransomware
Separate from one another, crypto-malware and ransomware operate in different ways. Hackers use ransomware to encrypt files on computers and demand ransom payments to recover them, while crypto-malware is used to mine cryptocurrency on computers without users’ authorization. Here is a rundown of the key distinctions between them:
How do Crypto Malware Attacks Spread?
Cybercriminals have developed many techniques for breaking into computers and launching crypto malware attacks. Here are a few of the most important tactics that hackers use:
Installing crypto-mining code
One popular approach used by hackers to make use of infected devices’ computational capacity is injecting a crypto-mining program into the machine. Malicious actors often install malware on computers by misleading victims into downloading files that appear harmless but contain crypto-mining malware or by creating fake links that direct users to websites that host malware. Hacker organizations have been known to disseminate malware using infected routers, making identification and mitigation even more challenging.
Injecting crypto mining scripts into ads and websites
Cybercriminals can release crypto-mining software by inserting harmful scripts into advertisements and websites. The scripts usually take advantage of security holes in browsers to instantly start mining cryptocurrency on affected PCs. Even if the victim is careful not to click on the malicious adverts or other trigger features on the website, this could still happen.
Exploiting vulnerabilities in software and operating systems
It is common practice for hackers to install crypto-mining programs on victims’ devices by taking advantage of software and operating system flaws. They often succeed in doing so by making use of zero-day exploits or existing vulnerabilities. It has also been discovered that specific cryptojacking campaigns use side-loading vulnerabilities to install modules that mimic legitimate system processes to install cryptojacking software. Side loading refers to injecting code into a device without the developer’s approval. This method enables the installation of crypto-malware and other forms of persistent malware.
Exploiting cloud-based infrastructure vulnerabilities
It is not uncommon for hackers to take advantage of security holes in cloud-based systems to mine cryptocurrency. Some attackers have used covert, fileless payloads to launch crypto virus assaults. Payloads are sometimes designed to vanish from memory when cloud operations are stopped, making identification much more challenging.
Malicious browser extensions
It is not uncommon for cybercriminals to launch crypto-jacking assaults using malicious browser extensions. The extensions trick users into mining digital assets by making them install what appear to be plugins for factual purposes. Because they seem to serve a useful purpose, the malicious actions of these extensions are usually hard to spot.
Signs of Crypto-malware Attack
Infections with crypto-malware can show themselves in various ways, some of which are very visible and others very subtle. Here are a few indicators that you might be infected with them:
Increased CPU usage
Computers’ central processing units (CPUs) are common targets for crypto malware. Coordination of a computer’s hardware, operating system, and applications is the primary responsibility of the central processing unit (CPU). Instructions from diverse components are processed by complicated electronic circuitry. Consequently, a suspicious spike in CPU utilization is a common symptom of crypto mining malware infections. Windows Task Manager and macOS Activity Monitor allow you to keep tabs on your computer’s processing power. One sign of crypto-malware infection is a rapid and persistent increase in CPU consumption, especially while the system is not in use.
A noticeable drop in overall system performance is often caused by crypto malware’s severe CPU resource consumption. Overloading the CPU with cryptocurrency mining processes is likely to cause performance issues. Overheating is one of the secondary concerns that often occurs alongside a crypto-malware infection’s impact on performance. When this happens, the computer’s cooling system (fans) may have to work harder to dissipate the heat. A rise in power usage often accompanies this.
Unusual network activity
Crypto malware infestation symptoms may manifest as unusual network activity. This is because crypto viruses frequently ask for updates and instructions from remote servers through pinging. Consequently, strange network behavior, like a high volume of outgoing connections, may indicate an infection. Unknown processes or apps that use disproportionate CPU resources often appear alongside such actions.
Protection Against Crypto-malware Attacks
There are several ways to prevent crypto malware attacks. Some of them are broken down below.
Keeping the operating system and software updated
Operating system updates help keep software up-to-date with the newest security patches, which can protect against crypto-malware. The upgrade will stop hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities in old systems, which is the reasoning behind the preventive measure.
Install and use reputable antivirus and anti-malware software
A vital step in preventing cybersecurity dangers, such as crypto-malware, is to install robust antivirus software. Regular scans for harmful software are a common feature of top-rated anti-malware products. These applications employ advanced detection algorithms to identify dangers, including crypto miners. Crypto malware can be detected and prevented from deploying on a machine using the real-time scanning features of many of the most demanding antivirus products.
Be cautious with email attachments and links
Cybercriminals continue to choose email to spread malware, particularly crypto malware. To be safe against email infection, never open an attachment or click on a link in an email from someone you don’t know or trust. This is because scammers frequently send misleading emails to get people to download without realizing it. Thus, it may be possible to prevent crypto virus infections by ignoring questionable emails.
Only download software from trusted sources
The likelihood of encountering harmful programs is decreased when software is downloaded from trustworthy sources. This is because reliable platforms significantly reduce the possibility of delivering tainted software by often undergoing rigorous security assessments. In contrast, malicious websites usually do not have these protections and may spread malware, including crypto-mining malware, to unsuspecting users.
Use a firewall
The primary function of a firewall is to prevent unwanted access to a computer system or network by screening all incoming and outgoing connections to the internet. Because of the extra safeguard, crypto-malware has more difficulty infecting computers.
Install an anti-crypto jacking extension
Future Outlook of Crypto-malware
Based on the existing patterns, the number of attacks is expected to continue to rise. This is because there has been a change in focus among law enforcement agencies toward dealing with prominent cybercrimes such as data breaches and ransomware. There will undoubtedly be an increase in crypto-jacking attacks due to cybercriminals feeling more empowered due to the government’s diminished focus. According to historical trends, cybercriminals will likely keep inventing new cryptojacking tactics to take advantage of security holes in new technology. In the early stages of this evolution, conventional security systems may find it challenging to identify and thwart these kinds of attacks.
Lastly, one of the biggest problems with crypto-malware is that users aren’t well-informed about crypto-jacking and its dangers. More devices are left susceptible, and infection rates rise because people don’t understand and care enough to take preventative precautions.