AdSecure Offers Crypto Mining Detection

BARCELONA—AdSecure, the ad verification tool used by ad networks, ad operations teams and publishers, on Monday announced that it has added a new platform feature to its detection arsenal: Cryptocurrency Mining Detection. AdSecure developed this feature in response to seeing an upward trend in instances of malvertising being used by cyber criminals to use unsuspecting user’s browsers for mining cryptocurrencies.

Cryptocurrencies are “mined” (meaning new “coins” are created) using resource intensive algorithms. This makes the process more and more expensive for miners in terms of hardware and electricity as more coins are mined. This is the reason why they need to hook up to many computers in order to keep mining the cryptocurrencies; one solution that miners have found is to use user’s computers, without them knowing about it.

There are two main JavaScript libraries that are currently being used to target users: (launched on September 14) which defines itself as an alternative to classic advertising. The second is a modified version of MineCrunch, a notorious script that was released back in 2014 and seems to be making a comeback because it can be used to mine cryptocurrencies through a web browser. Although these JavaScript libraries are not malware themselves, they are using user’s computer resources to generate profits.

Rather than tricking users into downloading cryptocurrency mining malware, cyber criminals are buying traffic from ad networks and then distributing potentially malicious JavaScript instead of using a traditional digital advertisement. This approach has a clear advantage because it is much easier to build scale and reach a large number of computers by distributing the malware from “infected” websites rather than by infecting individual user machines. Once the malware starts mining from a user's browser, the user will notice a dip in CPU performance. This is why streaming and gaming websites have been preferentially targeted for crypto mining malware distribution, because end-users tend to spend more time on these sites and may be less likely to notice the increased activity on their computer resources, with the user probably assuming the slow performance is caused by the game or video as opposed to cryptocurrency mining activity.

Mathieu Derval, product manager at AdSecure, commented, "The popularity of mining cryptocurrency within browsers is on the rise. In the last few weeks here at AdSecure, we have come across several cases of this new fraudulent trend. According to our first analysis, the cyber criminals were mainly interested in Monero, ZCash, Feathercoin and Litecoin, which can be mined with a standard CPU with little difference in overall results compared to running more advanced hardware. This new kind of malvertising attack points out once again the need for ad platforms and publishers to use an ad verification tool to protect their network, keep their reputation intact and keep their visitors safe."

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