Cryptocurrency has been the buzz word in the IT landscape lately as hackers continue to seek new opportunities to earn big by getting more sophisticated.

Crypto-hijacking is an unauthorized use of computer resources to mine cryptocurrency. Hardware and electricity pose the biggest resource challenge to cryptocurrency miners. Hence, they have resorted to the use of crypto-hijackers. With crypto-hijackers, hackers can circumvent these challenges by utilizing the computer resources of an innocent victim. Hackers see crypto-hijacking as a cheaper, more profitable alternative to ransomware. Crypto-hijacking has continued to grow globally, with over 23% of organizations worldwide affected by the crypto-mining malware in January 2018.

Coinhive has become one of the most prevalent crypto-hijacking malware. It is a JavaScript that can be installed through a plugin called Browsealoud (which allows blind and partially sighted people to access the internet). It performs online mining of cryptocurrency by using the computing resources of the end user’s machines to mine digital coins thereby impacting system performance when a user visits a web page.

While it is offered as a legitimate service for webmasters looking for a monetization alternative to advertising, criminals often embed it into websites without the knowledge of website owners and unscrupulous website owners use it without the knowledge of site visitors. One of the main attractions of cryptocurrency mining malware is that they are stealth and often non-intrusive. The resulting decreased performance and latency can be annoying, but users are unlikely to find out that a miner like Coinhive is the cause.

Just recently, a security researcher discovered some compromised government websites in the US, UK and Australia and over 4,000 websites in total that aimed to utilize vistors’ computers to mine cryptocurrency. Some of which includes, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the General Medical Council and some NHS websites.

There’s still no immediate way to tell that the page has a hidden mining component, and you may not even notice any impact on performance, but someone may have hijacked your devices for digital profit.

Follow these steps below to minimize the risk of your organization falling prey to crypto-hijacking:

  1. Incorporate the crypto-hijacking threat into your security awareness training: The focus on this would be on phishing-type attempts to load scripts onto users’ computers. Training will help protect you when technical solutions fail.
  2. Install an ad-blocking or anti-crypto-mining extension on web browsers: Since crypto-hijacking scripts can also be delivered through web ads, installing an ad blocker can be an effective means of preventing them.
  3. Keep your web filtering tools up to date: If you identify a web page that is delivering crypto-hijacking scripts, make sure your users are blocked from accessing it again.
  • Written by Lois Eko