The Return of Crypto Mining

The rise of Crypto Currencies over recent years has seen a significant increase in both criminal and legitimate organisations alike trialling ways to mine these valuable digital commodities, with as little overheads as possible.

Computers being compromised for Crypto mining was a significant issue in the early days of Bitcoin, but died out due to the required compute power to mine. However, Crypto mining has come back with a vengeance in 2017, due to the rise of other crypto currencies such as Monero.

Monero can be mined on consumer-level hardware. The hardware requirements and the increased popularity of Crypto currencies, together with the release of CoinHive, is behind this sudden surge. CoinHive was developed solely for the purpose of being able to conduct in-browser mining of Monero for website operators as a revenue stream, outside of advertising.

CoinHive was released in September 2017 for website owners to be able to monetise visits to their website in a legitimate manner. This alternative revenue stream has prompted a strong uptake. Within three weeks of being released, CoinHive was running on 220 of the 100,000 most visited sites.

But just as legitimate organisations are attempting to capitalise on the release of CoinHive, so are Cyber Criminals. A variant of CoinHive became the 6th most used Malware in October 2017, just one month after CoinHive launched.

Whether CoinHive is installed on a website for its intended use or maliciously, the end-user loses. Fortunately, most ad-blockers and anti-viruses have incorporated controls to block mining software, but with the ability to profit with very little input, we are sure to see continuing use of such software, and more worryingly, variants intended for malicious use.

By Nick Sharp, Business Development Manager at Sense of Security