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cryptojacking

Google Strategist Says Cryptojacking on the Rise

cryptojacking

Varun Kohli, a leading strategist working for Google has come out and said that number of incidents of cryptojacking is increasing across the world.

Cryptojacking or using someone else’s computer to for mining cryptocurrency, mostly remotely, is a chronic issue plaguing the online community. The issue is particularly troublesome in areas where a lot of computers are directly connected in a Local Area Network (LAN) like tech companies and university campuses.

Google strategist Kohli, while speaking on a session on ‘Disruptive technologies of bitcoins, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning’ in Kochi India, was of the opinion that cryptojacking was swiftly replacing other moves by hackers like Denial-of-Service attacks (DoS).

While the DoS are much more drastic in appearance, the cryptojacking attacks are much more subtle as they use nothing but the device’s computing power to mine cryptocurrencies.

Kohli focused on Monero cryptojacking and said:

“Monero worth around USD 18.50 million is on circulation, and some people say that 5% of it is being earned through Cryptojacking. At present, a single Monero is valued at around USD 20-25 taking the earnings through Cryptojacking somewhere in the range of USD 4 million.”

According to Kohli, one can fall victim to cryptojacking while accessing an infected website. While the creator of the cryptocurrency is not liable for these and individual users are, the threat of cryptojacking remains a thorn in the issue of global hacking among internet users. Kohli is betting on AI to help solve some of these problems.

 

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Research: Cryptojackers Targeting Consumers Virtually Extinct

cryptojacking

A fresh report by computing security firm MalwareBytes has declared that cryptojacking specifically targeting consumers “is essentially extinct“.

The report, Cybercrime Tactics and Techniques Q1 2019, focused on cryptojacking, which is the illicit hijacking of consumer devices to secretly mine cryptocurrency using their computing power. This was typically done by infecting users’ browsers with a script that would tap into idle computer power, directing it to the hacker’s own account.

Last month, browser mining service CoinHive shut down after its operation stopped being economically viable. This led, apparently, to a sharp decrease in cases of cryptojacking against consumers. In the same period, the attacks began increasing against businesses since Q1 2019.

CoinHive, while itself legal, was a popular script used illegally by many sites throughout 2017 and 2018. Last year, a researcher claimed to have detected variants of the script on over 300 government and university websites globally. In Japan, legal courts have passed sentence on cryptojacking cases, although the sentences do not seem to be consistent even if the manner of crime has been. CoinHive is usually at the center of these incidents, especially in Japan where over 130,000 devices had been infected at the end of 2017.

Also in April, cybersecurity firm Symantec found a surge in new cases of crypto mining malware targeting enterprises specifically.

 

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Japan Man Cleared of Wrongdoing Despite Cryptojacking

Japan Man Cleared of Wrongdoing Despite Cryptojacking

The Japan Times reports that a Japan court today cleared a man of cryptojacking after he went on trial for allegedly hijacking the devices of visitors to his website, so that he could use their processors to mine cryptocurrency.

The 31-year old man was using the popular Coinhive crypto mining script, and was accused of installing and running the script his website visitors’ computers without their consent. Essentially, people visiting his website were unknowingly mining crypto for the man.

Prosecutors demanded a JPY 100,000 (USD 900) from the accused, on the grounds that victims were financially impacted through increased electricity consumption. They also argued that no consent was obtained for running the script.

The Yokohama District Court rules, however, that the script was not a computer virus, and that it would be “excessive” to punish the accused. The preceding judge also ruled that the cryptojacking could not constitute a criminal act as “we cannot say embedding the program was socially unacceptable”.

This, despite an earlier case in which a 24-year old man was found guilty of cryptojacking by another Japanese court, and sentenced to one year in prison.

According to the report, the man had introduced Coinhive to his website between October and November 2017. Coinhive is an API script which uses the idle processing power of a computer device to mine the anonymity-focused cryptocurrency Monero. It came to prominence in 2017 in Japan when massive waves of infected devices were found to contain traces of Coinhive or similar scripts, with over 130,000 cryptojacking cases reported in Q4 2017.

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Mining Hubs Sprout in College Campuses As Students Tap Free Power

Mining Hubs Sprout in College Campuses As Students Tap Free Power

The second largest crypto mining hubs across industry verticals are in college campuses, noted a research article published by tech conglomerate Cisco in PCMag.

According to the report, Cisco security researchers investigated cryptocurrency mining activity across different industry verticals using its own Umbrella software. Umbrella has the ability to track dubious crypto mining along with client network connections in order to screen malicious activity.

The biggest miners of virtual currency (around 34%) belong to the energy and utilities sector, stated the report. However, the second biggest miners (22%) are university campuses.

Austin McBride, Cisco threat researcher, said that students saw it as an attractive opportunity: leave mining rigs running in their dorm room for years and graduate with a stash of crypto, all this without paying for energy costs associated with virtual currency mining.

According to the rankings, media (6%) and healthcare (7%) industries followed university campuses. Moreover, manufacturing (3%), local government (4%) and financial services (2%) were ranked as other major crypto mining sectors.

In April 2018, a similar trend was observed by Vectra (cyber attack monitoring firm). They discovered that university campuses were leading other areas in both cryptojacking and intentional cryptocurrency mining.

A warning was posted by Stanford University in January 2018 against on-campus crypto mining. The administration maintained that students are prohibited to use school resources in order to get any personal financial gain.

 

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Future Firefox Browsers Will Block Cryptojacking Malware

In a move to help improve security in the crypto-sphere, Firefox has announced that all future versions of its web browser will automatically block crypto-jacking malware.

Cryptomining scripts that mine cryptocurrencies unknown to the owner of the device will be prevented from autorunning. While it may be a relatively small number of people that experience this themselves, a growing number of incidents have been reported this year. Firefox is providing a secure solution against this, which will help rid the cryptocurrency industry of the arguably undeserved stigma it has received due to negative media reports of incidents such as crypto-jacking.

The decision was made as part of Firefox’s anti-tracking initiative that goes live in the following few months. The aim is to target the negative impacts of unchecked online tracking. Future web browsers will protect users by default from this, and offer users more advanced controls over what information of theirs is shared with third parties.

In addition to blocking crypto-jacking malware, the initiative plans to prevent noticeable effects such as what it describes as ”eerily-specific targeted advertising”, as well as those that users are unable to spot such as unchecked data collection that can lead to major security breaches. Firefox cited a study that indicates a total of 55.4% of time spent loading a web page is actually spent sending information to third parties.

Opera also offers this service

The popular web browser Opera added a similar anti-crypto-jacking function to its desktop adblocker update in December last year, adding that in January it plans to include this feature in its mobile application also.

Opera has become an increasingly popular web browser of choice as earlier this month it announced plans to integrate a cryptocurrency wallet into its desktop web browser supporting a wide variety of tokens. Charles Hamel, Product Lead of Opera describes the integration as a key step in “making cryptocurrencies and Web 3.0. mainstream.”

 

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First Large-Scale Crypto Jacking Strike in India Targets Conglomerate

The third largest conglomerate in India, Aditya Birla Group, was targeted in what is believed to be the first large-scale crypto jacking attack of its kind in India.

 Over 2,000 computers affected

Hackers were able to gain access to over 2,000 computer systems belonging to various companies governed by the Aditya Birla Group, taking over the computers’ terminals and processing power to illegally mine cryptocurrency.

While the attack was first detected last month, reporting from the Economic Times notes that it took just a few days for the malware to infect areas of the manufacturing and additional services belonging to the Aditya Birla Group.

A person familiar with the attack spoke to the Economic Times, describing the attack as one in which ”the primary intention of the hackers is not to steal information and cause business disruption. Rather, they hijack the target’s computers and tap the power supply to the organization to mine crypto coins”.

Addressing reporters, a Birla Group spokesperson said: ”Recently, the advanced threat detection systems of our Group alerted us of suspicious activity on some desktop systems. Based on this, our internal team immediately carried out an investigation and deployed countermeasures to isolate and eliminate the cause of this activity.”

Bigger enterprises mean bigger gains for hackers

The Birla Group spokesperson was able to assure the public that with the comprehensive investigation nearly being complete, the hack was not subject to any data loss. Hackers were instead able to mine what has been described as a substantial amount of Monero.
It is common for hackers to target larger establishments, as they are able to provide the potentially largest gains. Universities are known to be another target rich environment hit by hackers.
It is important to note, however, less than 1% of Bitcoin transactions involve illicit activities. While in this case, Monero was the cryptocurrency mined in the illegal process, there is no specific data indicating how frequently it is involved with fraudulent activities.

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Websites Hit by Latest Wave of Cryptojacking

The website ‘Bad Packets Report’ has released a list of some 300 sites that have been compromised by “cryptojacking”, including Chinese hardware maker Lenevo.

Coindesk reports that the site’s security adviser, Troy Mursch, wrote last week that the compromised sites had been infected by hackers installing a browser mining software which exploited an outdated version of Drupal, a content management system (CMS). The two vulnerabilities, CVE-2018-7600 and CVE-2018-7602, have left numerous websites vulnerable to hacks if they did not receive immediate updates.

Incidents of cryptojacking are currently on the rise, defined as the secret use of one’s computing device to mine cryptocurrency. The hacking used to occur when the victim unknowingly installed a program on their computer which secretly mined cryptocurrency. Now, hackers are infecting websites with software that utilizes the victim’s computer power to mine cryptocurrency on the attackers’ behalf.

The list published by Mursch includes government and university portals as well as private companies, but is not the first of such alerts. After a previous release by cyber-security firm Imperva, warning that Drupal sites were being hacked by ‘Kitty’, an in-browser cryptocurrency miner containing a file named ‘me0w.js.’, it became clear that these sites were at risk.

Mursch explained why mining malware is currently rife:

“This is because Coinhive and other cryptojacking services (malware) are simply done with JavaScript. Every modern browser and device can run JavaScript, so as such, everybody can mine cryptocurrency and unfortunately Coinhive has been used and abused time and time again. [In] this particular case, Drupal users need to update [as soon as possible].”

Not all Coinhive users are malicious, as Bitcoin News reported recently. UNICEF recently launched a project called ‘The Hope page’  in support of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, which used the crypto mining service to fund its project. In this case, users gave permission to UNICEF to mine the coin monero using donors’ computer power.

 

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