The popularity and skyrocketing value of cryptocurrency has created a new cybercrime. It’s called cryptojacking.

According to the Internet Security Threat Report released this spring from Symantec, cryptojacking has become profitable.

“Cryptojacking is a rising threat to cyber and personal security,” Mike Fey, president and COO of Symantec, said in the company’s press release. “The massive profit incentive puts people, devices and organizations at risk of unauthorized coinminers siphoning resources from their systems, further motivating criminals to infiltrate everything from home PCs to giant data centers.”

Digital Hijacking of Computing Power

Your organization’s data center, which is already at risk of ransomware, phishing scams and stolen personal data, is now subject to someone hijacking your servers for the processing power to mine for coins, such as Bitcoin or Monero.

Back in the old days — say, 5-10 years ago — miners would work from their own laptops, but now they need much more processing power to run the complex math that is the basis of coin mining. Special processors cost thousands of dollars, so some miners have turned to hijacking other computers for their CPU.

How Does Cryptojacking Work?

Here’s a quick explanation behind why cryptojacking has become a thing.

A coin miner’s job is to verify every transaction in the blockchain ledger. Miners are rewarded in Bitcoin, for example, for adding a new verified block to the Bitcoin blockchain. It’s like making money for doing complicated accounting work, and most of that work is done by a computer. The work involved in updating the ledger of transactions requires a lot of processing power because to create a verified block that is added to the blockchain, a complex math problem must be solved.

On average, a new block is added to the blockchain every 10 minutes, so it’s a virtual race among coin miners to solve the math problem first and add to the block chain. As more miners join the network, the coin mining algorithms become more complicated.

The creators of Bitcoin arranged for only 21 million Bitcoins to be created. It’s projected that the last of the Bitcoins will be mined in the year 2140, so there’s a race to collect all the Bitcoins. The Symantec report points out that the astronomical rise in cryptocurrency values triggered a cryptojacking gold rush with cybercriminals attempting to cash in. Coin miners reached endpoint computers last year at a rate 8,500 percent higher than in 2016, according to the report.

This BBC video news report explains it quite well.

Why It Hurts Your Organization

It is important to note that not all coin miners are criminals. In fact, miners are doing the work that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were designed for — keeping track of the public transaction ledgers.

But the miners who are hijacking computers that don’t belong to them are harnessing stolen processing power and cloud CPU usage from consumers like you and your organization to mine cryptocurrency. Machines slow down and overheat. In some cases, devices are unusable. Plus, the cryptojackers increase your electricity consumption.

“Now you could be fighting for resources on your phone, computer or IoT device as attackers use them for profit,” Symantec’s Director of Security Response, Kevin Haley, said in the press release. “People need to expand their defenses or they will pay for the price for someone else using their device.”

How Garnet Shield Can Help

Garnet Shield’s sensors track traffic going into and out of your network, recording IP addresses. The sensors’ reports show the Security Operations Center if a cryptominer has infiltrated your network. Our security engineers then work with you to block the cybercriminal and stop the mining.

Get started today with the Garnet Shield service and protection.