Cryptojacking describes the creation of cryptocurrencies by a website that executes background mining software on a visitor's computer. Since mining is a very computing-intensive process, this can lead to reduced battery life on mobile devices. The cryptojacked computer runs at full speed, the battery drains quickly, and the profit goes to the attackers. The St. Pölten UAS has now developed the free app CoinEater, which recognises online crypto mining and blocks its execution.
"Usually, high-performance hardware is used to generate cryptocurrencies. Cryptojacking distributes mining between many, less powerful devices and poses a new form of threat on the internet," explains Sebastian Schrittwieser, head of the Institute for IT Security Research at the St. Pölten UAS, who helped develop the software.
Ongoing Search for New Threats
A scanner developed at the Institute for IT Security Research automatically searches the Internet for cryptojacking at regular intervals. The results are then integrated into the CoinEater software. To do this, the researchers went through over 1 million of the most popular websites and uncovered that more than 3,000 sites were digging for cryptocurrencies without their users' knowledge. The researchers' programme also provides a technical analysis of the methods used by these websites.
"The use of such techniques is legitimate if website users agree to them, for instance, in order to hide advertisements," says Schrittwieser. Cryptojacking, on the other hand, is a misuse of the users' devices.
"Even though Coinhive, the largest provider of online mining software today, is going to discontinue its services soon, the problem will not be completely eradicated, and mining could become more worthwhile once again later on," says Schrittwieser. The scanner can also detect other providers of crypto mining.
Protection against Pop Ups
The scanner also recognises another new phenomenon on the Internet: the pop-up scam. When visiting websites, users are confronted with pop-up windows containing ads or short messages that link them to fee-based offers or malware and which have to be tediously clicked away.
The software is updated constantly. It scans about 100,000 pages every day and runs a software update for the one million pages once every ten days.
Download of the add-on for protection from crypto mining https://www.coineater.io.
Explore further: Is your computer secretly mining Bitcoin alternatives? A guide to 'cryptojacking'
Julian Rauchberger et al. The Other Side of the Coin, Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Availability, Reliability and Security - ARES 2018 (2018). DOI: 10.1145/3230833.3230869