Crypto Malware —How to Detect it?

Crypto Malware —How to Detect it? Cybersecurity dangers constantly change, so staying alert for new ones is important. Crypto malware is one such growing danger. Statistics show a worrying trend: in the first half of 2023 alone, there were over 300 million crypto virus attacks, which is about 400% more than in the same period in 2022.

Tell me about crypto malware. Crypto viruses steal a computer’s or device’s computing power to mine Bitcoin. Crypto viruses do this through crypto-jacking. Most stolen computing power is utilized to mine privacy-focused cryptocurrencies like Monero XMR $127. Authorities struggle to track these cryptocurrencies due to their advanced obfuscation. However, Coinhive released the first public cryptojacking program in 2017. The script lets web admins insert mining code on their pages to leverage visitors’ devices’ processing power. The coming years saw a meteoric rise in crypto malware attacks, which this incident ushered in.

Crypto Malware Attacks are Rising—Why and How?

Hackers are shifting from active cybersecurity threats like ransomware to passive ones like crypto viruses. According to cybersecurity experts, several factors have contributed to this paradigm shift. One major advantage is the low danger associated with cryptojacking assaults compared to more common strategies like ransomware that anti-crime authorities often deal with. Also, there is some ambiguity around whether or not crypto mining is unlawful, which gives bad actors more cover to operate.

Another reason hacker groups focus more on processing power theft is the cost-effectiveness of crypto-virus attacks. Acquiring stolen processing power is a breeze, and turning it into cash is a breeze, too. This feature makes cryptojacking incredibly appealing to criminal organizations. Furthermore, cryptojacking assaults utilize low-level vulnerabilities, including browser flaws, that are hard to detect in contrast to traditional malware.

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. Hackers see them as easy prey because of this. Because of this, the attack surface for crypto virus attacks is unintentionally raised.

Crypto Malware vs. Ransomware

Crypto malware and ransomware are two distinct types of malware. While crypto-malware is malware used to mine cryptocurrencies on computers without users’ consent, hackers utilize ransomware to encrypt computer files and demand ransom payments for their decryption. Over the years, black hats have devised numerous ways of compromising computing devices to carry out crypto malware attacks. The following is a breakdown of some of the key strategies used by hackers:

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 misleading victims into downloading files that appear harmless but contain crypto-mining malware or by creating fake links that direct users to websites that host malware. Infection detection and mitigation efforts are further complicated when hacker groups use compromised routers to distribute the infection.

Injecting crypto mining scripts into ads and websites

Criminals online can infect websites and advertisements with scripts that mine cryptocurrency. The scripts usually take advantage of security holes in browsers to instantly start mining cryptocurrency on affected PCs. This may happen regardless of the victim’s efforts to avoid the infected advertising or other potential triggers on the page.

Exploiting vulnerabilities in software and operating systems

It is common practice for hackers to install crypto-mining programs on victims’ devices by taking advantage of software and operating system flaws. A lot of the time, they pull this off by using zero-day exploits or known vulnerabilities.

It has also been discovered that certain cryptojacking campaigns use side-loading vulnerabilities to install modules that mimic legitimate system processes to install cryptojacking software. The process of injecting unapproved code into a device, known as side loading, is common among developers. This method enables the installation of crypto-malware and other forms of persistent malware.

Exploiting cloud-based infrastructure vulnerabilities

It is not uncommon for hackers to take advantage of security holes in cloud-based systems to mine cryptocurrency. As a last option, some cybercriminals launch crypto virus attacks with undetectable, fileless payloads. Payloads are sometimes designed to vanish from memory when cloud operations are stopped, making identification much more challenging.

Malicious browser extensions

Cryptojacking attacks are occasionally carried out by cybercriminals using malicious browser extensions. Malicious extensions, posing as useful plugins, trick users into making their computers mine cryptocurrency. Because they seem to serve a useful purpose, the negative actions of these extensions are usually hard to spot.

Symptoms of Crypto Malware Infection

Crypto malware infestations might present a wide spectrum of symptoms, from the most egregious to the most subtle. Here are a few indicators that you might be infected with crypto malware:

Increased CPU usage

The central processor unit (CPU) is a common target for crypto malware. Coordination of a computer’s hardware, operating system, and applications is the main responsibility of the central processing unit (CPU). It takes commands from different parts and processes them using intricate electronic circuitry.

This is why crypto mining malware frequently causes an abnormal spike in CPU use on compromised devices. Task Manager in Windows and Activity Monitor on macOS allow users to monitor CPU activity. One sign of crypto-virus infection is a rapid and persistent increase in CPU consumption, especially while the system is not in use.

Slow performance

A noticeable drop in overall system performance is often caused by crypto malware’s severe CPU resource consumption. Overloading the CPU with cryptocurrency mining processes is likely to cause performance issues. As a computer’s performance drops due to a cryptovirus infection, it may also experience secondary difficulties, including overheating, which makes the cooling system (fans) work harder to remove the excess heat. Power usage tends to rise at the same time.

Unusual network activity

Crypto malware infestation symptoms may manifest as unusual network activity. Crypto viruses can frequently ping remote servers to obtain instructions and upgrades. Consequently, strange network behavior, like a high volume of outgoing connections, may indicate an infection. Unknown processes or apps that use disproportionate CPU resources often appear alongside such actions.

Protection Against Crypto Malware Attacks

Several strategies exist for preventing crypto malware attacks. The following is a breakdown of some of them.

Keeping the operating system and software updated

Operating system updates help keep software up-to-date with the newest security patches, 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

Protecting one’s computer system from crypto-malware and other cybersecurity risks requires installing strong anti-malware software. Regular scans for harmful software are a common feature of top-rated anti-malware products. These applications, such as crypto miners, employ advanced detection algorithms to identify risks. Many of the most robust antivirus programs have real-time scanning capabilities to detect crypto malware and stop it from installing on a PC.

Be cautious with email attachments and links

Cybercriminals still choose email as a vector for spreading malware, especially crypto. Never open an attachment or click on a link in an email from someone you don’t know or trust if you want to stay safe from email malware-spreading tactics. This is because scam emails are a common tool cybercriminals use to deceive victims into downloading crypto malware without their knowledge. Hence, avoiding crypto virus assaults may be as simple as ignoring strange emails.

Only download software from trusted sources

By downloading software from trusted sources, you can lessen the likelihood of encountering harmful programs. The reason is that trustworthy sites typically implement comprehensive security measures to reduce the possibility of disseminating malware. 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

To prevent unwanted access, firewalls filter incoming and outgoing connections between a computer and the internet. Due to the additional security layer, it is now more difficult for crypto-malware to infect PCs.

Install an anti-crypto jacking extension

You can install specialist anti-crypto jacking browser extensions to detect better and turn off crypto-mining programs that target browser elements. The official web stores of most browser developers usually have legitimate extensions that prevent cryptojacking. Disabling JavaScript support in the browser is a less drastic but still viable option. This mitigation will stop cryptojacking scripts written in JavaScript from running.

Future Crypto Malware Trends

Given the present trajectory, we should expect to see an increase in the frequency of crypto-virus assaults in the next years. This is because there has been a change in focus among law enforcement agencies toward dealing with prominent cybercrimes such as data breaches and ransomware. The decrease in oversight from authorities is expected to inspire hackers, increasing crypto-jacking attacks.

According to historical patterns, fraudsters will keep creating new cryptojacking methods to exploit security holes in new technology. In the early stages of this evolution, conventional security systems may find it difficult to identify and thwart these kinds of attacks. Lastly, one of the biggest problems with crypto viruses is that users aren’t well-informed about crypto-jacking and its dangers. More devices are left susceptible, and infection rates rise because people don’t understand and care enough to take preventative precautions.

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