While the damage a hacker can do is damaging, the motivation behind these attacks varies widely.

There are several key motivations for hackers – they may be insiders looking to profit from the company’s data, hacktivists working toward a social agenda, nation states working a political agenda or cybercriminals looking to make a profit, according to Fortune.com.

This last bucket is booming, as last year’s waves of ransomware attacks are joined by one of the newest cyber threats – cryptojacking.

Hacking For Profit

2017 was a banner year for ransomware, as it grew 350% over the previous year. No industry was safe, and healthcare was especially vulnerable to these attacks.

According to an article on CSOonline.com, ransomware costs were expected to hit $11.5 billion by 2019. While some companies are stepping up their internal efforts to thwart ransomware, other companies are stocking up on Bitcoin in order to pay ransoms.

Not only does paying the ransom not guarantee your files will be unlocked, it may actually make you more likely to be a target in the future, according to an article on TechRepublic.com.

“Organizations that paid the ransom were targeted and attacked again 73% of the time,” they wrote.

Cryptojacking Joins The Scene

So how does cryptojacking fit into the for-profit hacking scene? Cryptojacking uses a company’s computers to mine cryptocurrency. Hackers access the machines through a malicious link in an email that introduces crypto mining code.

The second avenue for cryptojacking is through an infected website or ad that has JavaScript that automatically runs once it’s loaded in the browser, according to CSOonline.com

Unlike ransomware, which makes it very obvious that the machine has been infected, cryptojacking can be running in the background with little sign of the infection. Users may notice some slowness, according to the article.

What’s Driving Cryptojacking?

Cryptojacking is just getting started, but it’s proving to be profitable for hackers. Earlier this year, the Smominru crypto mining was discovered on 500,000 machines in India, Taiwan and Russia. It was estimated to have generated more than $3.6 million by January 2018, according to CSOonline.com.

With the potential for this kind of profit, cryptojacking isn’t going away. This makes it more appealing than ransomware, as it generates more profit with less risk.

“With ransomware, a hacker might get three people to pay for every 100 computers infected, he explains. With cryptojacking, all 100 of those infected machines work for the hacker to mine cryptocurrency,” according to the article.

Fighting Back

While no plan is foolproof, here are some steps organizations can take to help prevent crytojacking, according to CSOonline.com:

Educate your employees: Just like other malware, most cryptojacking is being introduced via phishing attacks. Make sure that you’re covering cryptojacking in your educational programs. Tell employees what to look for and make sure they understand the damage that clicking just one link can do.

Install ad blockers: Since some cryptojacking is delivered through infected ads, install ad blockers to help prevent its spread. Some ad blockers, like Ad Blocker Plus and extensions No Coin and MinerBlock, are specially designed to find and stop cryptomining code.

Maintain your web filtering tools: If you are notified that a certain site or ad has malicious code, make sure to block it for your entire organization.

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