Nine out of ten times, getting rid of crypto-malware is only as tough as spotting them.
Would you be suspicious of a sudden drop in your computer’s performance?
Many won’t! Likewise, only a few care enough about occasional lagging and usually tag this as their operating system’s ‘standard’ issues.
However, if they investigate deeper, it can also surface as a rogue application, eating away the bandwidth and dragging the system’s performance.
What is Crypto-Malware?
You can assume crypto-malware is a digital leech injected by a 3rd-party beneficiary that drains your computing resources without your knowledge.
However, the process is more commonly known as crypto-jacking.
As already stated, what makes it hard to get detected is its modus operandi. You can’t tell the difference unless you’re super aware of your computer fan’s standard operating sound, speed, etc., and the general system performance.
This will run crypto mining applications in the background for the lifetime of your machine unless you hit uninstall.
In a nutshell, crypto miners are applications that contribute to the crypto world by verifying their transactions and mining new coins. This generates passive income for their operators.
But those are known as crypto-malware if installed on a system without proper authorization from the administrator, making it a cybercrime.
For a simpler analogy, consider someone using your lawn to plant a fruit tree, taking water and the needed resources from your home without your consent, and denying you the fruits or the money.
That will be akin to the crypto-jacking of this mortal world.
How Does Crypto-Malware Work?
Like most malware!
You don’t search for virus-infected downloads and install them to have fun.
But they happen to you in the most mundane ways:
- Clicking a link in the email
- Visiting HTTP websites
- Downloading from unsafe sources
- Clicking a suspicious ad, and whatnot
In addition, bad actors could deploy social engineering to force users into downloading such malware.
Once installed, crypto-malware piggybacks on your system resources until you detect and uninstall them.
Some signs of crypto-malware infection are increased fan speed (noise), more heating, and sluggish performance.
Crypto-Malware Vs. Crypto-Ransomware
Crypto-ransomware is not so subtle. Once installed, it can lock you out of the system only to allow access after you pay the ransom amount.
It typically displays a number or email to get in touch with or account details to cooperate with the ransom threat.
Depending on the stakes, people sometimes comply with the fraudster to get it back. However, there are instances where agreeing to such ‘requests’ gave no relief or made them a future target as well.
Crypto-malware, in contrast, poses no visible threat. It quietly works in the background, eating your resources to become a perennial passive income source for the cybercriminal.
Popular Crypto-Malware Attacks
These are some of the documented events which rocked the digital world with their sophistication.
Graboid was detected by Palo Alto networks researchers and published in a 2019 report. The attacker took nearly 2000 insecure Docker hosts for a free ride that didn’t need authorization.
It sent remote commands to download and deploy infected docker images to the compromised hosts. The ‘download’ also contained a tool to communicate with and jeopardize other vulnerable machines.
Next, the ‘modified’ containers downloaded four scripts and executed them in order.
These scripts randomly operated Monero miners for repeated 250-second sessions and spread the malware through the network.
Exposed by Kaspersky labs in 2018, PowerGhost is a fileless crypto malware primarily aimed at corporate networks.
It’s fileless, which means it attaches itself to machines without attracting unwanted attention or detection. Subsequently, it logs into the devices via Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) or EthernalBlue exploit used in the infamous WannaCry ransomware attack.
Once logged in, it tried to disable other miners (if any) to reap maximum yield for the responsible bad actors.
In addition to being a resource hog, one PowerGhost variant was known to host DDoS attacks targeting other servers.
BadShell was discovered by the Comodo Cybersecurity division in 2018. It is another fileless crypto worm that leaves no trace on the system storage; instead, it operates through the CPU and RAM.
This attached itself to the Windows PowerShell to execute malicious commands. It stored binary code in the Windows Registry and ran crypto mining scripts with Windows Task Scheduler.
#4. Prometei Botnet
First detected in 2020, Prometei Botnet targeted published Microsoft Exchange vulnerabilities to install crypto-malware for mining Monero.
This cyber assault used many tools, such as EternalBlue, BlueKeep, SMB, and RDP exploits, etc., to spread through the network to target unsafe systems.
It had many versions (as with most malware), and the Cybereason researchers tag its origins back to 2016. Besides, it has a cross-platform presence infecting the Windows and Linux ecosystems.
How to Detect and Prevent Crypto-Malware?
The best way to check crypto-malware is by keeping tabs on your system. An increased fan voice or a sudden drop in performance may give out these digital worms.
However, operating systems are complex entities, and these things keep happening in the background, and we generally don’t notice such subtle changes.
In that case, here are a few pointers that can help you stay safe:
- Keep your systems updated. Outdated software often has vulnerabilities exploited by cybercriminals.
- Use a premium antivirus. I can’t emphasize enough how every device needs a good antivirus. Besides, such attacks happen irrespective of operating system (Mac also gets attacked!) and device type (smartphones, tablets included).
- Don’t click everything. Being curious is human nature that is often taken unfair advantage of. If it’s unavoidable, copy-paste the suspicious link into any search engine and see if it needs further attention.
- Respect in-browser warnings. Web browsers are way more advanced than they were a decade ago. Try not to overrule any warnings without proper due diligence. In addition, stay away from HTTP websites.
- Stay informed. These tools get regular updates from the bad guys. Additionally, their methods to victimize also evolve. Consequently, keep reading about recent hacks and share them with your peers.
Crypto-Malware Is on the Rise!
This is because of the ever-increasing crypto adoption and their tough detection.
And once installed, they keep churning free money for the crypto criminals with little to no effort needed from their side.
However, the above-listed internet best practices will help keep you safe.
And as already discussed, it would be best to install cybersecurity software on all of your devices.
Next, check out the introduction to cyber security basics for beginners.