What is Crypto Malware, and how do you detect it? The ever-changing nature of cybersecurity requires constant awareness of new threats. Cryptovirus is a growing threat. Recent estimates show a 400% growth in crypto virus infections from 2022 to the first half of 2023, with over 300 million conditions. The data suggests a shift toward crypto malware in cybercrime, which is concerning. How would you define crypto malware? Crypto viruses steal processing power from computers and other devices to mine Bitcoin. Crypto viruses do this through crypto-jacking. Usually, stolen computing power is utilized to mine privacy-focused cryptocurrencies like Monero XMR $177. Authorities have trouble tracking these coins due to their advanced obfuscation.
However, Coinhive launched the first public cryptojacking program in 2017. Web admins may use the script to embed mining code to exploit visitors’ devices’ processing power. This incident sparked a crypto-malware assault boom in the following years.
Crypto Malware Attacks are Rising—Why and How?
Recent tendencies indicate that cybercriminals are shifting their focus from active, disruptive assaults like ransomware to passive, less disruptive ones like crypto viruses. This paradigm shift is attributed to multiple variables by cybersecurity specialists. 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.
Cybercriminal organizations increasingly target processing power theft due to the low cost of crypto-virus attacks. Computing power theft is inexpensive and easy to turn into cash. Because of this feature, criminal organizations find cryptojacking to be quite helpful. Cryptojacking assaults, unlike traditional malware, employ undetectable low-level flaws, such as browser vulnerabilities.
Another reason for the increase in crypto virus 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. Because of this, hackers view them as easy prey. This feature unintentionally increases attack surfaces for crypto viruses.
Crypto Malware vs. Ransomware
There are two main categories of malicious software: crypto malware and ransomware. In contrast to the cryptovirus, which encrypts user files and demands payment to decode them, ransomware encrypts files without user agreement and requires the amount to unlock them. Cybercriminals have developed many techniques for breaking into computers and launching crypto virus attacks. Some of the most critical tactics employed by cybercriminals are summarized below:
Installing Crypto-Mining Code
Hackers frequently utilize crypto-mining malware injections to exploit infected devices’ processing power. Malicious actors often install malware on computers by fooling users into downloading files that include crypto-mining software or enticing them to click on links that take them to websites that distribute malware. Infection detection and mitigation efforts are further complicated when hacker groups use compromised routers to spread the infection.
Injecting Crypto Mining Scripts into Ads and Websites
Malicious scripts can be embedded in advertisements and websites, allowing cybercriminals to release crypto-mining malware. The hands use browser security holes to start mining cryptocurrency on affected PCs instantly. This may happen even if the user takes every precaution to avoid clicking on malicious advertisements or other potential triggers on the page.
Exploiting Vulnerabilities in Software and Operating Systems
Attackers frequently install crypto-mining programs on victims’ devices by taking advantage of flaws in software and operating systems. A lot of the time, they pull this off by using zero-day exploits or known 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. The method of injecting unapproved code into a device, known as side loading, is common among developers. Through the utilization of this method, persistent malware, including crypto-malware, can be spread.
Exploiting Cloud-based Infrastructure Vulnerabilities
Cloud computing is vulnerable to attacks that target security holes, allowing hackers to steal and use data for cryptocurrency mining. Some attackers have used covert, fileless payloads to launch crypto virus assaults. To make matters worse for detection efforts, payloads are usually coded to vanish from memory when cloud workloads are stopped.
Malicious Browser Extensions
To launch cryptojacking attacks, cybercriminals may make use of rogue browser extensions. The extensions trick users into mining digital assets by making them install what appear to be plugins for factual purposes. The ostensibly legal functionality of these extensions makes their harmful activity challenging to detect.
Signs of a Crypto-Malware Attack
Infections with crypto-malware can show themselves in various ways, some very visible and others very subtle. Some of the most apparent symptoms of crypto-malware infestation are as follows:
Increased CPU Usage
Malware that encrypts data usually goes after a computer’s CPU. The central processing unit (CPU) is the laptop’s brain, coordinating all the various parts and pieces of software, operating systems, and hardware. It takes instructions from different regions and processes them using complicated electronic circuitry. This is why crypto mining malware frequently causes an abnormal spike in CPU use on compromised devices. Windows Task Manager and macOS Activity Monitor allow you to keep tabs on your computer’s processing power. Severe and persistent increases in CPU utilization, particularly during system idling, can be signs of a crypto-malware infestation.
Because crypto viruses use so many CPU resources, system performance generally drops significantly. The CPU is overloaded with cryptocurrency mining processes, causing performance concerns. Overheating is one of the secondary concerns that often occurs alongside a cryptovirus infection’s impact on performance. When this happens, the computer’s cooling system (fans) may have to work harder to dissipate the heat. This usually occurs at the same time that people start using more power.
Unusual Network Activity
Any suspicious behavior on a computer network might be a sign of a cryptovirus. This is because crypto viruses frequently ask for updates and instructions from remote servers through pinging. Therefore, abnormal network patterns, including a proliferation of outgoing connections, may suggest infections. When you do these things, strange processes or applications may pop up and use more of your computer’s processing power than usual.
Prevention from Crypto Malware Attacks
Several strategies exist for preventing crypto malware attacks. An explanation of a few of them follows below.
Keeping the Operating System and Software Updated
Updating an OS regularly keeps it patched with the newest security fixes, 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
Installing robust antivirus software is vital in preventing cybersecurity dangers, such as crypto-malware. Recommended anti-malware software routinely scans devices for malware and uses advanced detection algorithms to spot risks, such as cryptocurrency miners. Many of the most advanced antivirus programs have real-time scanning capabilities to detect crypto malware and stop it from being installed on a computer.
Be Cautious with Email Attachments and Links
Malicious software, including cryptocurrency malware, is still being distributed by email. Do not open attachments or click on links in emails from unfamiliar or suspect sources to protect yourself from email malware propagation methods. This is because fraudsters frequently employ scam emails that include crypto viruses as a technique. Hence, avoiding crypto virus assaults may be as simple as ignoring strange emails.
Only Download Software from Trusted Sources
The likelihood of encountering harmful programs is decreased when software is downloaded from trustworthy sources. The reason behind this is that reliable platforms typically use comprehensive security measures to minimize the likelihood of spreading software that is compromised. On the flip side, malicious websites often don’t have these protections, making them a prime vector for spreading software with malware, including crypto mining malware.
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, the cryptovirus has a more challenging time infecting computers.
Install an Anti-crypto Jacking Extension
Crypto Malware Trends for the Future
According to the present trends, the frequency of crypto-virus attacks is expected to rise in the coming times. One reason is that cybercrimes such as ransomware and data breaches are now receiving more attention from law authorities. A surge in cryptojacking attempts is anticipated due to hackers feeling encouraged by the authorities’ diminished focus. According to historical patterns, fraudsters will keep creating new cryptojacking methods to exploit security holes in new technology. It will be difficult for conventional security measures to identify and stop these threats as they evolve, at least initially.
One last thing holding the cryptovirus in its tracks is that users aren’t well-informed about crypto-jacking and its dangers. Crypto-malware is more susceptible to infection, and fewer people take precautions since people don’t comprehend the importance of prevention.