Hi, there! It's great to engage with you again. If you're excited to learn how to prevent and detect cryptojacking, you won't be disappointed. If you missed the first part of this blog series, or want a refresher on the topics previously covered, you can find it here. In this second and final part, you'll learn the signs of cryptojacking and effective ways to thwart them. Let's get started.

The signs of cryptojacking

Whenever a device is used for mining cryptocurrency, with or without the user's consent, it leaves behind a trail of evidence in the form of certain signs. These signs, if recognized, can provide information about the device(s) involved, and help you classify them as safe or cryptojacked. These are some of the signs to watch for:

  • High CPU and GPU use
  • High device temperature
  • Slow device response
  • Faster drainage of batteries
  • Increasing number of performance issues
  • High electricity bills

Except for the last item on the list, the signs pertain to the infected device. If a device exhibits the first few signs frequently, then it's likely that device has been infected with cryptojacking malware. Depending on the sophistication of the malware, it can also infect other devices on the network. Now, the question arises: Is there a way to prevent it? Or, if a device is already infected, how can we detect it? Read on to find out.

How to prevent cryptojacking

As the saying goes, "Prevention is better than a cure" and we realize how true that is today, in more ways than one. Here are a few ways to avoid falling victim to cryptojacking:

  • Use a SIEM solution to monitor browsing activity. A SIEM solution can also alert and blocklist malicious websites and emails with suspicious links (phishing emails).
  • Add a cryptomining blocker to your browser extensions.
  • Use ad blockers.
  • Use antivirus and anti-malware software and perform patch management frequently.
  • Disable JavaScript.
  • Train your IT team to identify network anomalies.
  • Educate your employees about phishing, cryptojacking, and secure browser behavior.
  • Beware of social engineering techniques and their consequences.

While prevention should be our primary goal, let's learn how to detect cryptojacking so we can be prepared.

How to detect cryptojacking

Cryptojackers are smart and sophisticated enough to design malware that can remain undetected for quite a while, or persist in the device even after the user leaves the infected browser. However, while detecting cryptojacking might be difficult, it is not impossible, especially if you know what to watch for. A combination of inputs from users and security solutions can help you identify and combat cryptojacking.

  • Use Task Manager for Windows systems, or Activity Monitor for Mac systems to check the CPU usage details for each process or application running on your device. If you suspect a particular browser or application to be using too many system resources, then close it and check to see if the drain on your system changes. If the utilization of resources decreases considerably, then that could indicate that the site you visited has been infected with a cryptojacking script and is using your device's resources to mine cryptocurrency.

    Cryptojacking demystified: Part 2 Figure 1: Task Manager showing different processes currently running and the resources they utilize.

    Cryptojacking demystified: Part 2 Figure 2: Task Manager showing details of device performance.

  • Scan for malware and analyze reports from your antivirus solution to identify any suspicious or malicious downloads of malware disguised as a legitimate application.
  • Look out for device overheating and the increased use of the fan to cool your device. With cryptojacking, because of the heavy use of processing power, the device overheats and the battery drains incredibly fast. On a daily basis, this could cause irreparable damage to your device, and require a replacement device.
  • Use a suitable SIEM solution, such as ManageEngine Log360, to monitor for signs of cryptojacking at an organizational level. With a SIEM solution, you can set correlation rules to alert you when a device shows signs of being cryptojacked, and confirm this by correlating the logs from your antivirus solution.

ManageEngine Log360 offers built-in correlation rules to identify cryptojacking. It also allows for the customization of rules. To detect cryptojacking more effectively, you can create your own rules to integrate logs from antivirus and antimalware solutions to the built-in rules.

In Log360, the built-in correlation rule for detecting cryptojacking offers insights and alerts based on:

  • High machine temperature alert
  • High CPU usage for a long time
  • Cryptocurrency mining software started
  • Cryptocurrency wallet software started

Let's now take a look at the default criteria for a cryptojacking alert in Log360.

High machine temperature alert

When a device violates the threshold temperature five times in an hour, an alert will be sent to the security analyst.

Cryptojacking demystified: Part 2 Figure 3: Log360 console showing alerts based on high temperature.

High CPU usage for a long time

When a device utilizes the CPU beyond the threshold level three times within 30 minutes, the analyst will be alerted.

Cryptojacking demystified: Part 2 Figure 4: Log360 console showing alerts based on high CPU usage.

Cryptocurrency mining software started

In your device, whenever a Windows process containing a name such as bitcoin-qt, cgminer, tbalance, bfgminer, coin-miner, bitmoose, and AwesomeMiner are started, the security analyst will be alerted. These processes indicate that a cryptomining code is running on your device. Organizations generally don't allow the use of their resources for mining cryptocurrencies. If this process starts on your device, it's a concern for the security analyst. This means that, without your knowledge, the malcode is using your device's resources to mine cryptocurrencies, and your organization's security analyst needs to be alerted.

Cryptojacking demystified: Part 2 Figure 5: Cryptocurrency mining software alert.

Cryptocurrency wallet software started

Whenever a cryptojacking software starts in your device, it will simultaneously start the wallet software to collect, send and spend the mined cryptocurrencies. In your device, if a Windows process with a name such as electrum, BitPay, Ethereum wallet, Armory-qt, and multbit-hd starts, the security analyst will be alerted.

Cryptojacking demystified: Part 2 Figure 6: Alerts based on cryptocurrency wallet.

To fully evaluate how a SIEM solution like Log360 can help defend your organization against various cyberattacks, including cryptojacking, schedule a personalized demo. Thanks for reading, folks!

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