March 7, 2018 By Douglas Bonderud 2 min read

The cryptocurrency market isn’t stable, but it is lucrative for investors. As noted by CoinDesk, bitcoin is still trading above $10,000 per coin.

Virtual currencies also represent massive opportunity for malware-makers. A recent Kaspersky Lab report tracked the work of numerous threat groups, including one that grabbed more than $7 million by infecting thousands of computers with crypto-mining malware. How can companies keep virtual shovels out of CPU goldmines?

What’s Yours Is Mine

Crypto-mining attacks are now as lucrative for cybercriminals as traditional malware. In fact, Kaspersky reported a 50 percent growth in mining malware last year.

Why all the interest? Along with the uptick in cryptocurrency value and use, there’s also the benefit of behind-the-scenes mining. Once attackers compromise a system, malicious payloads sit quietly in the background and leverage unused computing cycles. In many cases, the only outward sign of infection is increased cooling fan activity, something many users wouldn’t notice or might attribute to normal system processes.

Kaspersky’s report detailed three crypto-mining groups, each leveraging its own infection technique. The first group infected 10,000 computers using process hollowing, which creates a process in a suspended state and later replaces that process image with a malicious, hidden task. This is the first time process hollowing has been seen as part of a mining attack.

Meanwhile, the second group took the time to scout potential targets and went after Monero coins specifically. The third group focused on creating miner kits that they sold online for profit.

Finders Keepers

While the second group in the Kaspersky report went after nonadmin machines to mine Monero coins, most crypto-miners aren’t picky about their targets. Few networks have defenses in place that are capable of detecting and mitigating these mining attacks.

As noted by The Guardian, thousands of government-owned websites in the U.K. were recently hijacked by rogue mining code. Ars Technica also reported that attackers leveraged weak access credentials to compromise one of Tesla’s Amazon clouds and install low-profile mining software. The ramp up of mining efforts has also given rise to widely used code such as XMRig, which targets Monero coins and lowers the entry bar for attackers.

Protect Corporate Networks From Crypto-Mining Attacks

To keep miners out of corporate networks, organizations should educate employees about the dangers of malicious links and email attachments. Security teams must also monitor system processes and risky actions. For example, are CPUs working harder than normal? Is there an uptick in energy usage? Are there intermittent issues with network performance?

Given the sheer number of tasks already on security professionals’ plates, automatic monitoring and detection tools are often the best fit. They can be configured to scan for specific miner markers and then report to security teams.

Crypto-miners are digging in, banking on typical infection routes and stealthy processes to create virtual currency. Protection relies on improving IT perception, updating employee education and recognizing the telltale signs of crypto compromise.

More from

ONCD releases 2024 Report on the Cybersecurity Posture of the U.S.

4 min read - On May 7, the Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD) released the 2024 Report on the Cybersecurity Posture of the United States. This new document is a report card on how well cyber policy followed the guidelines set by the National Cybersecurity Strategy, introduced in March 2023. Here’s what you need to know about the newly released report. Fundamental shifts in cyber roles Over the past year, the U.S. national cybersecurity posture was driven by the 2023 National Cybersecurity…

CISA wants private industry to publicly commit to Secure by Design

4 min read - The tech industry has the power to protect the world from nation-state threat attacks, cyber crime and those wanting to compromise data and manipulate critical infrastructure. But with this power comes great responsibility, which, to be honest, the tech industry has not been that interested in holding. But at the RSA Conference (RSAC) in San Francisco, the cybersecurity and tech communities took steps to exert some power and take responsibility. They took the Secure by Design pledge, a promise to…

Change Healthcare discloses $22M ransomware payment

3 min read - UnitedHealth Group CEO Andrew Witty found himself answering questions in front of Congress on May 1 regarding the Change Healthcare ransomware attack that occurred in February. During the hearing, he admitted that his organization paid the attacker's ransomware request. It has been reported that the hacker organization BlackCat, also known as ALPHV, received a payment of $22 million via Bitcoin.Even though they made the ransomware payment, Witty shared that Change Healthcare did not get its data back. This is a…

Topic updates

Get email updates and stay ahead of the latest threats to the security landscape, thought leadership and research.
Subscribe today