Understanding Cryptojacking and Other Hidden Malware Threats

What is Cryptojacking & How Does it Work?


  • Cryptojacking involves the unauthorized use of devices to mine cryptocurrency, often achieved through phishing emails or infected websites.
  • Drive-by cryptojacking occurs when users unknowingly visit compromised websites, automatically activating mining scripts.
  • The 2020 Cooking Mama Cookstar incident sparked concerns about cryptojacking but was later attributed to poor game optimization.
  • Cryptojacking's future remains uncertain due to Bitcoin's rising hash rate and the shift from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake mechanisms.
  • Beyond cryptojacking, other hidden malware threats like keyloggers, clippers, and botnets continuously evolve, emphasizing the need for proactive cybersecurity measures.

How Does Cryptojacking Work?

Cryptojacking, a portmanteau of "cryptocurrency" and "hijacking," refers to the unauthorized use of someone else's computer or device to mine cryptocurrency. In this cybercrime, perpetrators exploit unsuspecting users' computational resources, tapping into their device's processing power without their knowledge.

At its core, cryptojacking is about covertly infiltrating devices. Attackers often employ malicious techniques, such as phishing emails with malicious links or infected websites, to deploy cryptocurrency mining malware onto a victim's device. Once the malware is executed, it runs silently in the background, harnessing the device's CPU or GPU power to mine cryptocurrency. The mined coins are then transferred to the attacker's digital wallet, all while the device's owner remains oblivious to the illicit activity.

The consequences of cryptojacking can be twofold. Firstly, the victim's device experiences a noticeable slowdown in performance due to the increased resource consumption. Over time, this can lead to wear and tear, potentially shortening the device's lifespan. Secondly, there's a financial implication. The electricity costs associated with the increased computational load fall on the device owner, resulting in higher utility bills. Moreover, if left undetected for extended periods, substantial amounts of cryptocurrency can be illicitly mined at the victim's expense.

Types of Cryptojacking

Several different methods for cryptojacking exist. Below are some common attack vectors:

Drive-by Cryptojacking

Drive-by cryptojacking occurs when users visit a compromised website. The mining script is automatically executed without any interaction required from the user.

One of the most infamous drive-by cryptojacking methods, Coinhive was a specific JavaScript mining code embedded in websites. It allowed site owners to monetize their traffic, but many abused it, deploying it without visitors' knowledge.

Browser-based Cryptojacking

Attackers leverage JavaScript to initiate mining processes directly within a victim's web browser, requiring no software installation.

Cooking Mama & Interesting CryptoJacking Accusations

In April 2020, the gaming community was abuzz with concerns when players of the Nintendo Switch game, Cooking Mama Cookstar, reported unusual device behavior. Devices were overheating, and batteries were rapidly depleting. Speculations arose that the game might be cryptojacking users' consoles. The situation escalated with the game's sudden removal from the official Nintendo store. However, subsequent investigations clarified that the issues stemmed from poorly optimized code, not malicious cryptojacking activities.

Fast forward to 2021, cybersecurity firm Bitdefender uncovered a sophisticated threat operation in Romania. This group targeted Linux-based systems, exploiting SSH credentials to distribute Monero mining malware. Their modus operandi was particularly alarming as they operated using a service-based model, emphasizing the scalability and commercialization of such cyber threats. Concurrently, a report by VMware highlighted an emerging trend: the targeting of Linux-centric multi-cloud environments. The attackers leveraged tools like the XMRig mining software, underscoring the evolving landscape of cryptojacking and the increasing vulnerabilities within Linux infrastructures.

Is Cryptojacking in Decline?

Cryptojacking's decline remains ambiguous due to its covert nature. However, the rising hash rate of Bitcoin and the industry's gradual shift from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake mechanisms could hypothetically deter the prevalence of cryptojacking. The evolution of blockchain technologies and consensus algorithms may render this malicious activity less attractive in the long run.

Beyond Cryptojacking: Other Hidden Malware Threats:

Beyond the well-known threat of cryptojacking, the internet is filled with other hidden malware dangers. Keyloggers represent one such peril, covertly capturing every keystroke to extract sensitive information like passwords and credit card details. 

Clippers lurk in the shadows, intercepting clipboard data to replace cryptocurrency addresses with the attacker's, redirecting funds to their wallets. The invasion of privacy extends to malware accessing webcams and microphones, silently observing and listening to unsuspecting users. 

Additionally, botnets can turn devices into mere puppets, controlled remotely to execute malicious tasks or participate in large-scale attacks. 

As technology advances, so do the intricacies of malware, with new and sophisticated threats continually emerging. It underscores the importance of vigilance, robust cybersecurity measures, and staying updated on the evolving landscape of digital threats.

Protecting Yourself from Hidden Malware

Navigating the digital landscape, one must be wary of lurking threats like hidden malware and cryptojacking. However, armed with the right tools and knowledge, you can fortify your defenses. 

Begin with proactive prevention; ensure your software, including your OS and applications, is regularly updated to patch any vulnerabilities. Consider robust anti-malware solutions that offer comprehensive protection against a myriad of threats, including cryptojacking. For web-based safety, deploy browser extensions such as NoScript or uBlock Origin to fend off malicious scripts. Cultivate safe browsing habits; always verify links, eschew downloads from dubious sources, and scrutinize websites for irregularities. Amplify your security with a dedicated firewall and adopt the mantra of strong, unique passwords paired with two-factor authentication. 

Additionally, scan your devices regularly for anomalies. Stay vigilant for subtle indicators of malware, such as sluggish performance, persistent fan activity, or unexplained battery drainage. In the ever-evolving digital age, proactive defense and awareness remain your strongest allies against hidden threats.

DcentraLab Diligence:

Website: https://www.dcentralab.com/diligence

Twitter/X: https://twitter.com/Dctl_Diligence

Medium: https://medium.com/dcentralab-diligence

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/dcentralab-diligence/ 

Request a Smart Contract Audit