Cryptojacking — Biggest Threat Of 2018
Cybersecurity has been one of the top priorities of the Internet ever since it first came to be, decades ago. However, as soon as the web appeared, so did those who wanted to exploit it in an illegal way. Hackers, scammers, and other types of cybercriminals soon realized that security is not the first thing on people's mind during their browsing sessions, and they took full advantage of that fact.
Now, years later, it appears that each year has its own theme in terms of popular hacking attacks. In 2017, the entire world suffered damage after ransomware attacks became popular. Malicious software such as WannaCry or NotPetya damaged thousands upon thousands of computers around the world.
However, in late 2017, cryptocurrencies became big, and hackers realized that they can use their skills to make money without attracting attention to themselves and making headlines on purpose. Soon enough, cryptojacking replaced ransomware, and it became the biggest trend in the last 12+ months.
What is cryptojacking?
Cryptojacking is a term used for naming the process of hijacking Internet users' computers, phones, tablets, and any other types of devices that have the Internet connection, including all IoT gadgets. Pretty much anything with the Internet connection that can offer any amount of processing power is a potential target.
It originally appeared as software supposed to be employed on various websites that offered interesting content. The idea was to reduce content creators' dependence on advertisement as a way of making a profit. By employing the software, websites could use small amounts of their visitors' computing power to mine cryptocurrencies for themselves.
However, hackers quickly realized that they can employ it for their own purposes, as they were already hijacking various devices for information theft, ransomware, and alike. They created cryptojacking malware which infected unprotected devices and then forced the software to use the devices' computing power for mining crypto.
That way, hackers can receive the mined coins without having to use their own computers or electricity, as mining is infamous for consuming large amounts of resources. As mentioned, cryptocurrencies became a big hit in late 2017, and cryptojacking became even more popular.
While the process can continue for days, weeks, or even months without the victim realizing anything, there were some cases where hackers used as much power from their victims as they could. These incidents eventually led to the realization that cryptojacking is growing as a trend. However, while tracking most coins could lead to eventually identifying the hacker, the process is more difficult when it comes to privacy coins such as Monero (XMR), which is why this coin became cybercriminals' favorite.
As mentioned, the process doesn't require much, apart from a stealthy malware, hacking skills, and unprotected devices. Unfortunately, a large number of devices with the Internet connection still have limited protection. The lack of awareness of these issues often leads to device owners' ignoring the dangers, as they do not consider them to be a real threat.
In recent years, computers protection did grow, but things like IoT devices are still ignored by the majority of users. Furthermore, many believed that cryptojacking might lose its popularity when crypto prices started dropping in early 2018. However, as mining coins by using other people's resources represents free money, hackers were not actually affected by the market crash, as any amount is good enough when they don't have to pay for the mining process.
As 2018 advanced, more and more cryptojacking campaigns were detected, with hackers infecting anything from computer browsers to routers, smart devices, and more. Numerous campaigns were reported throughout the year, and while many of vulnerabilities were found thanks to cryptojacking malware detection techniques, the security of these devices has remained a large problem to this day. While the threat is still new — being only around 15 months old at this point — it has clearly dominated the year, and it will likely remain one of the largest threats in 2019 as well.