Since the start of 2018, those with one eye on the crypto world have noted one thing: coin hacks are becoming more common and they mine Monero. As Bitcoin’s value raced towards the $10,000 mark towards the end of 2017, the risk/reward ratio for cybercriminals was too great to ignore.
According to research, the number of weekly attacks reached eight million per week in February 2018. At the heart of the matter is the fact that mining new blocks of Bitcoin, Monero, and other cryptos can be highly lucrative. For example, the median reward for Bitcoin miners at the moment is 12.5 BTC per block processed. At today’s rate, that’s just over $84,000. It’s a similar story with Monero.
In fact, what’s interesting about Monero is that two of its greatest strengths as a cryptocurrency has become its greatest weakness in the security stakes.
The Image that Mines Monero
According to recent tests carried out by Imperva, an innocent looking image of Scarlett Johansson was the set up for a PostgreSQL database attack. Initially targeting the PostgreSQL database’s Metasploit module, the attacker created a payload which they then dumped to the disk using the lo_export function.
However, to avoid detection by DAM (database audit monitoring) solutions, the payload was listed as an entry in pg_proc. The end result was that the hacker was able to execute system commands such as fun6440002537. From here, a data gathering process took place before the malicious code was injected into the system via a picture of Scarlett Johansson.
Taking from imagehousing.com, the snapshot was laced with a payload expressed in binary code (it was in the image, just below her left elbow).
Once the payload had been delivered, the code was extracted and executable file s4060014400 was live. The end goal: to mine Monero. Detecting such highly sophisticated attacks is possible using the latest data security techniques.
From the outset, anyone that uses their computer for work needs to deploy security programs with multiple functions. For example, the Imperva SecureSphere Database Discovery and Assessment monitor databases for vulnerabilities based on DISA, STIG and CIS standards.
The user is given a score based on how secure their system is. However, while this type of technology is crucial, so too is an understanding of why coinminers are becoming more common. In the case of Monero, the blockchain relies on two things: anonymity and small transactions.
Exploiting the Average User
Unlike Bitcoin mining, which requires large blocks to be processed, Monero favors smaller transactions. The upshot of this is that miners don’t need specialized application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) to complete the necessary proof-of-work required and process a block.
In real terms, this means that a standard CPU or GPU can be used to mine Monero. For crypto users and miners, this is great because it means smaller payments are processed faster (something that doesn’t happen with BTC) and that almost anyone can mine Monero. However, herein lies its weakness, because standard computers can mine Monero, it’s easier for hackers to deploy coinminers.
With BTC mining now being controlled by large companies with tons of security, it’s harder for hackers to exploit the system. However, with a lot of people not having adequate security on their PC, it makes it easier for attacks like the one explained above to take place. What’s more, Monero transactions are completely anonymous.
This means that it’s very hard to track stolen Monero coins. For cybercriminals, this is the perfect storm. For PC users, it’s another example of why data security is crucial. With the number of coinminer attacks increasing, running a secure system is important. Indeed, those with large networks of computers are sitting ducks for cryptojackers if they don’t protect their databases.