IT Infrastructure Insights

Don’t Let Your Organization Become a Victim of Cryptojacking

Mar 18, 2021

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Health & Monitoring

Could excessive spikes in your storage environment be a warning sign of cryptojacking? The malicious use of another person’s computing power, cryptojacking is the unauthorized use of an organization’s computer to secretly mine for cryptocurrency. Typically the victim has no idea that their device is being used.

Unidentified cryptojacking can not only threaten your storage environment but also raise costs related to electricity and wear and tear to computers. Don’t let a lack of storage transparency leave you vulnerable to monetary waste and frustration. Through smart tools that are easy to use, VSI helps IT leaders by delivering transparency across your storage environment and uncovering opportunities for operational efficiencies.

Cryptojacking Risk is Growing

All it took was one tweet from Elon Musk to dramatically raise the awareness of cryptocurrency. While Musk has helped drive the popularity of cryptocurrencies, he has also, perhaps unintentionally, helped drive up prices. With all of that increased attention comes some direct consequences on IT security.

As cryptocurrency has risen in popularity, with growing value, the anonymity of cryptocurrency has increased its attractiveness as a source of payout on the dark web for more nefarious purposes.

Most businesses are familiar with ransomware, and many may have been directly impacted by the trend. A continually favorite among hackers, ransomware has the value of a quick and anonymous payoff for the intruder after encrypting important files and requiring payment for their decryption. You can think of cryptojacking as the lesser-known sibling of ransomware.

What is Cryptojacking?

Cryptocurrency, crypto mining, and cryptojacking are all interrelated. Distributed by means of a blockchain ledger, cryptocurrency is decentralized, and instead, it is protected by complex cryptography. Before any cryptocurrency transactions can be added to a blockchain ledger they must first be verified, a process called crypto mining. The complex cryptography that protects cryptocurrency cannot be broken without the assistance of sophisticated computing power. And that’s where cryptojacking comes into play.

Crypto miners, those doing the crypto mining, compete against one another to solve the intricate cryptographic equations protecting cryptocurrency. The first crypto miner to solve the code is rewarded with their own cryptocurrency. As solving these cryptographic equations requires immense computing power, this becomes a driving force behind cryptojacking. Cryptojacking is simply the unauthorized use of a business’s hardware resources to illegally mine for cryptocurrency.

As cryptocurrencies become more popular and as they are increasingly accepted as a legitimate way to buy goods, it was only a matter of time before they were a target for exploitation. Cybercriminals are constantly on the lookout for ways to turn new technology into money-making opportunities, and cryptojacking is simply one of their latest innovations. However, cryptojacking has already evolved into a complex threat model. This particular kind of malware targets different types of physical and virtual devices.

Ransomware vs. Cryptojacking

Rather than encrypting files and holding files directly for ransom, cryptojacking is more subtle.  Instead of requiring a one-time payment, cryptojacking can operate unnoticed for far longer periods of time.  The comparison echoes sentiments about “teaching a man to fish” rather than “giving him a fish.”  Mining cryptocurrency requires hardware resources of either compute processing units (CPU) or graphics processing units (GPU).

The subtlety of the practice downplays its prevalence in the marketplace. In 2018, it was reported that 55% of global organizations were affected by this type of intrusion. Just last year, Palo Alto networks reported a corrupted DockerHub image that included software to instantly start using the CPU resources for crypto mining.  This image was downloaded over two million times. 

So how could anyone detect the presence of cryptojacking?  Visual Storage Intelligence offers visibility into your hardware resource utilization, changes, and trends.  By offering a single pane of glass into storage, compute, memory, and virtualized resources, VSI’s AI engines identify nuances in your environment that often go unnoticed by administrative personnel. 

This unique insight to identify trends in resource usage and performance provides predictive analytics to forecast future activity.  Not only does this reporting help maintain accountability when planning for the future, but VSI also identifies anomalies in utilization that can indicate malicious use of resources. 

At VSI, we believe IT executives should be armed with efficient and reliable tools in order to provide the strategic IT leadership they were hired to deliver. Schedule a demo to talk to a VSI data expert.

Key Takeaways

  • A rise in cryptocurrency popularity has increased cryptojacking.
  • Cryptojacking is a more subtle form of ransomware and can operate unnoticed for far longer periods. 
  • Minimize your cryptojacking risk by identifying anomalies in utilization that can indicate malicious use of resources. 
  • In 2018, it was reported that 55% of global organizations were affected by cryptojacking.
  • VSI brings IT leaders storage transparency that can identify trends in resource usage and performance.