According to the internet security company Kaspersky, cryptojacking is an act of mining cryptocurrency by hacking into someone else’s computer, smartphone, and other electronic devices. It is typically done by gaining unauthorised access to the host’s computer and using its resources to mine cryptocurrency without the host noticing it or before it is too late.
Since the Proof-of-Work consensus using coins like Bitcoin (BTC) requires extensive computational power to generate new coins and mining rigs consume heavy electricity besides their high cost and maintenance expenses, hackers use the cryptojacking method to mine Bitcoin and other Proof-of-Work cryptocurrencies using the host’s resources.
Researchers at the Kaspersky Labs further explain that cryptojacking can infect even Android devices even though phones have low processing power than computers. In this type of attack, hackers pool the processing power of a large number of phones to mine Proof-of-Work cryptocurrencies.
Exponential Rise In Cryptojacking Attacks In 2022
According to a report titled ‘2022 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report’ by cybersecurity firm SonicWall, cryptojacking attacks in the financial sector has risen by 269 per cent year to date, about five times more than the cyber attacks targeting the retail industry.
The report noted that the finance industry has witnessed significantly higher cryptojacking incidences than any other sector. Overall, crypto-jacking cases went up by 30 per cent to 66.7 million in the first half of 2022, SonicWall said in the report.
“Despite a precipitous drop in the price of cryptocurrency, global cryptojacking volume rose to 66.7 million in the first half of 2022, up 30% over the first half of 2021. The number of attacks on the finance industry is five times greater than the second highest industry — retail, which used to be at the very bottom of the list,” the report noted.
Why Are Cryptojacking Cases Rising?
SonicWall researchers noted that despite a sharp drop in Bitcoin prices since January 2022, cryptojacking cases kept increasing, showing that such cases continue irrespective of price fluctuations. Moreover, changing careers is tough even for cybercriminals; hence, they continue to illegally mine Proof-of-Work cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The researchers also attributed the rise to the crackdown on ransomware attacks, making cryptojacking their preferred tool for illegal mining. Bitcoin prices fell by 74 per cent from its all-time high of $68,990 last year.
“After governments stepped up ransomware awareness and enforcement efforts, and ransomware attacks such as those against Colonial Pipeline and Kaseya led to high-profile busts, some ransomware operators have decided they’re ready for a quieter life,” the researchers noted.
In a ransomware-type attack, they said, the attacker has to announce their presence and demand ransom by way of communicating with the victim. But in cryptojacking, the entire attack relies on discretion and “without the victim ever being aware of it. And for some cybercriminals feeling the heat, the lower risk is worth sacrificing a potentially higher payday,” they said.
Current Cryptojacking Trends
Incidents of Attacks: SonicWall researchers observed that cryptojacking incidents rose by 30 per cent to 66.7 million attacks in the first half of 2022, compared to the same period in 2021. The researchers also spotted a trend wherein they observed that cryptojacking attack volumes were often higher in Q1 than in Q2, and it has been the case since SonicWall started tracking cryptojacking.
SonicWall researchers recorded 45.1 million cryptojacking attacks in Q1 2022, but by April, 2022, the incidents were down by half “from its peak, and in May, it was even lower, resulting in a second-quarter attack volume of just 21.6 million, less than half the amount seen in the preceding three months.”
“While falling cryptocurrency prices may have a lot to do with this, keep in mind that what we’re seeing follows a well-established pattern,” the researchers said.
On January 1, 2022, the price of Bitcoin (BTC) was $47,219.03, and on July 30, 2022, it fell to $23,797.00, as per Coinmarketcap data.
Most Attacked Sectors: SonicWall researchers noticed that while the overall cryptojacking incidents increased, the previously most affected sectors like the government, healthcare and education, saw cryptojacking attack volumes dropped in the first half of 2022.
“This represents a long-awaited reprieve for education customers, who have gone from seeing the most cryptojacking of any industry on our list, to seeing the least.”
While the cryptojacking cases rose by 269 per cent in the finance industry, the retail sector witnessed a 63 per cent rise.