A recent collaboration between INTERPOL and cybersecurity firm Trend Micro has reportedly reduced the number of users infected by cryptojacking malware by an estimated 78 percent.
According to the press release published by INTERPOL earlier this week, the agency teamed up with Trend Micro to identify infected systems, alert their users, and instruct them on how to patch their devices.
Cryptojacking is a type of hack where cybercriminals infect users’ devices with malware that secretly installs crypto mining software. The software then uses the hacked devices’ resources to mine cryptocurrency and send it to the hacker(s).
Operation Goldfish Alpha
The collaborative effort, dubbed “Operation Goldfish Alpha” was launched in June of last year. Working together, the team was able to identify a cryptojacking campaign that exploited a vulnerability in MikroTik routers.
Over the course of the five-month operation, the team was able to identify more than 20,000 infected routers – each, in turn, infecting devices all across the ASEAN region.
Through the efforts of the region-wide operation, INTERPOL reports that the number of crypto mining malware-infected routers throughout Southeast Asia has been reduced by 78 percent.
Cryptojacking on the rise
Trend Micro notes that cryptojacking has become an increasingly popular way for cybercriminals to make money. In fact, the internet security firm reported cryptojacking was the most detected threat in the first half of 2019.
One of the reasons for this is that victims often don’t realize that their devices are infected, so the crypto mining software continues to run unabated.
“The malware sits on their machine in the background mining for digital currency 24/7/365. Increasingly, hackers have taken to launching sophisticated attacks against enterprise IT systems and cloud servers to increase their mining and earning potential,” the company explained.
“But many still target home computer systems like routers, as these are often left relatively unprotected. Stitch enough of these devices together in a botnet and they have a ready-made cash cow.”
How to protect your devices from cryptojacking malware
Because cryptojacking malware runs in the background of infected devices and cause no overt harm to the user, it can be hard to detect.
Often the first sign of an infection is an unexplained reduction in the infected device’s speed and performance.
If you suddenly start noticing your device’s CPU maxing out at 100 percent when after visiting certain sites or downloaded a file, it is possible that you may have been cryptojacked.
So what can you do to protect yourself? There are some simple internet security tips that can help you avoid malware infections.
Pay attention to the tried-and-trusted advice of avoiding malware, which includes setting apps and software to update automatically, using antivirus, and never installing apps or software you do not trust.
You should also be careful about clicking links when you don’t know where they will take you. This is particularly true in the case of emails.
If you aren’t sure about a link, there are URL sandboxes and other tools that will let you scan a link before deciding whether or not to click on it.
Hackers also target and hack users’ IP addresses to get into their devices and install malware or virus so that they can control them later. To protect against this, consider taking steps to hide your IP address online.
Lastly, consider bolstering your internet browser. There are ad blockers and extensions that promise to defend users against cryptojacking.
If you use Mozilla Firefox, it has a built-in solution to protect against cryptojacking. In fact, it released a new version not too long ago called Firefox Quantum which works to neutralize crypto mining scripts.
Got any tips that we missed? Let us know on Twitter!