The web has become a treacherous space in the last couple of years. On the one hand, government websites and corporate websites have drastically strengthened their security to cope with increasing instances of malware attacks. On the other hand, the attackers have shifted their targets to small and medium-sized business sites. These new generation attacks are stealthier and stronger than they used to be. This malware targets victims for cryptojacking and can appear anywhere, even in legitimate software stores. Cryptojacking attacks involve the process of infecting operating systems with malicious codes that use the unsuspecting user’s CPU for mining cryptocurrency.
Why do SMBs need to worry about cryptojacking attacks?
These malware attack mechanisms are diverse and that is posing quite the challenge for the cybersecurity organizations across the world. In 2018, there was a 31 percent rise in cryptojacking attacks. According to Adguard, around 33,000 popular websites with one billion combined monthly views were running cryptomining scripts without knowing it in 2017. The most notorious cryptomining software include Coinhive and Cryptoloot. Cryptojacking is one way to make more money with considerably less risks for every hacker. That is the primary reason for the steady increase in the number of malware attacks SMB websites face each day.
What are the signs of cryptojacking attacks?
While detecting cryptojacking can be difficult, it is not impossible. Here are a few ways to detect it:
- An increased rate of processor use on your device, without any intervention from your side.
- Unusually slow response times or sluggish processor speed.
- Undue overheating of the device.
All these can be signs of cryptojacking. Recent reports state that some popular Google Play Store apps were infected with cryptojacking malware. Google eventually removed them from the store, but that shows how difficult it is to trust a source. So, if your system has been showing these signs, there is a good chance someone has been using your processor for cryptomining for quite a few days now.
How can SMBs prevent cryptojacking?
Experts are now calling cryptojacking the new ransomware. While it does not hold company data hostage, it does slow down the important processors and keeps the connected systems of a company from performing optimally. After infecting a device, the cryptojacking malware can operate autonomously. The malicious attackers can choose from a plethora of more profitable cryptocurrencies like Etherium and Bitcoin. They can choose a host of new currencies that leverage GPU mining instead of CPU mining. That is one reason cryptojacking is overshadowing the risks of ransomware today.
Here’s how your SMB can minimize the threat and prevent cryptojacking attacks:
Expand your security awareness training to encompass cryptojacking threats
Delivering the right security training to the employees to detect phishing-type attacks that can load scripts on a device can protect a company’s CPUs and GPUs. Phishing is the most common and successful way to deliver malware to computers and it will remain so in the upcoming months. However, it will not prevent cryptojacking malware that auto-execute once a person visits a legitimate website.
Installing anti-cryptomining extensions on browsers
To prevent auto-executing malware attacks, a user can install anti-cryptomining extensions on their web browsers. They can provide protection against the auto-executing scripts. Many websites now deliver cryptomining scripts through ads. Along with these extensions, users can also install specific ad-blockers that can effectively detect and deter cryptomining scripts on websites.
Using reliable antivirus software
Several endpoint software systems like popular antivirus software programs now have inbuilt cryptominer detection systems. An antivirus can be a salient way to combat and defeat cryptojacking attempts that use known cryptomining scripts. Since cryptomining script authors are constantly changing their technology, it is indeed difficult to detect the scripts at the endpoint at all times, even with the latest versions of the antivirus program.
Double-check your web filtering tools
Sometimes, preventing cryptojacking attacks from the endpoint is impossible. In those cases, when you detect a web page delivering cryptomining scripts to your device, you should block it and flag it for your users. If possible, circulate updates stating the risks of visiting the flagged websites among your staff.
Implement BYOD policies for your staff members
Even one year ago, experts were vociferous about the dangers of using personal devices for office work since they exposed the network to ransomware threats. In the light of the recent cryptojacking threats, that has become a lesser concern. In fact, now cybersecurity experts state that Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies can lessen the impact of cryptojacking attacks. Mobile device management solutions are most effective in combating cyber-mining threats in the office environment. Since mobile devices have less processing power, they are not the primary targets of cryptojackers. It can protect the main company devices from unauthorized mining.
Investing in network monitoring tools
According to cybersecurity authorities, none of these methods are foolproof when employed individually. However, when implemented together, they can form a strong defense mechanism against modern cryptomining scripts. Furthermore, SMBs need to deploy network monitoring programs on their corporate networks. Cryptojacking is easier to detect in corporate environments than on home systems.
Why do SMBs find it difficult to defend cryptojacking attacks?
Today, only a handful of SMBs have the resources necessary to analyze the available information for the accurate detection or the prediction of cryptojacking attacks. The rising threats of cryptojacking demand a combination of machine learning and artificial intelligence that is capable of determining the patterns hidden in the cryptomining scripts, even when the attackers leverage new techniques. Without a residential AI system, it might be impossible to eliminate the threat of cryptojacking completely from the SMB environment.
Responding to the increasing threats of cryptojacking attacks
The lack of standardized network monitoring tools, and security firewalls make SMBs an easy target for the cryptominers. Government websites and experienced corporate sites already have the backend security that deters such attacks from leveraging their CPU and GPU power. Network monitoring is the best way to detect and prevent cryptomining activity, but unless SMBs find a way to redistribute their resources and invest more in strengthening their network monitoring and security, machine learning and AI, responding to the increasing threats of cryptojacking attacks will be impossible.