Cryptomining malware, or cryptocurrency mining malware or simply cryptojacking, is a relatively new term that refers to software programs and malware components developed to take over a computer’s resources and use them for cryptocurrency mining without a user’s explicit permission.
Cyber criminals have increasingly turned to cryptomining malware as a way to harness the processing power of large numbers of computers, smartphones and other electronic devices to help them generate revenue from cryptocurrency mining. A single cryptocurrency mining botnet can net cyber criminals more than $30,000 per month, according to a recent report from cybersecurity company Kaspersky Labs.
Unauthorized Cryptomining a Growing Epidemic
And unauthorized mining activity from cryptomining malware has become so prevalent that ad blocking firm AdGuard estimates more than 500 million users are mining cryptocurrencies on their devices without realizing it. These users either get infected by a cryptomining malware program or visit websites that stealthily run cryptomining software in the background without the user’s consent.
Image Credit: Wordfence
While many cryptomining malware and cryptojacking programs target desktops and laptops to mine cryptocurrency, others target smartphones and tablets. One of the more powerful cryptomining malware programs, dubbed Loapi by Kaspersky Labs, is designed to hijack an Android smartphone s processor to mine cryptocurrency and is so intensely invasive that it can overheat the phone s battery and physically damage the device.
Browser-Based Cryptocurrency Mining Growing As Well
In addition to malware designed to mine cryptocurrency, cyber criminals have also increasingly turned to browser-based cryptocurrency mining to help them generate revenue from mining. Browser-based cryptocurrency mining has been in use since 2011, but only recently has it become a widespread issue, due to the explosive growth in cryptocurrency as well as the launch in 2017 of new browser-based cryptocurrency mining services like Coinhive.
Coinhive is a software program that packages all the tools needed to easily enable website owners to use stealth scripting to force visitors into cryptocurrency mining while visiting their site, in most cases without any indication to the visitor.
While there has been some debate whether Coinhive is malware or simply a tool to help website owners generate additional income (if site visitors are made aware and consent to the mining activity), there’s little question that when Coinhive is utilized to mine cryptocurrency without a web visitor’s consent, Coinhive can and should be considered another form of cryptocurrency mining malware.