Cryptojacking

Security expert exposed the creator of CoinHive and encountered a strange revenge

Security expert Brian Krebs decided to figure out who is behind the famous CoinHive miner (CH) and how it appeared. It’s a fascinating story with colorful characters. But first, a brief reminder about what CoinHive is.

Top Cryptojackers are video streaming websites, and they do not use CoinHive

Back in December 2017, we added a mechanism that allowed users to optionally report websites whenever a cryptojacking script is detected by AdGuard. It proved useful right away and allowed us to discover the largest known cryptojacking campaign, which was being run by some popular video streaming websites. Since then we have received more than a million user reports, and now it's time to analyze them.

Over the last two months, we received over 1.3 Million reports on more than 120 thousand websites. It's important to notice that sometimes cryptojacking was detected on some legitimate websites (Google, Youtube, Instagram, etc) and this is most likely caused by malicious browser extensions or malvertising.

However, 40% (over half a million) of the reports came from just 50 domains. Let's take a deeper look into what the top cryptojackers do.

Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide: cryptojacking now on Youtube

A video streaming service is a perfect place to launch a cryptojacking script. Users watch videos, and their computers are busy mining cryptocurrencies for the script’s owner. Youtube is a video platform with a huge audience, but unfortunately its owner Google is too selfish to let anyone run a mining script there.

But it lets people run ads inside Youtube videos!

A malicious combo: cryptojacking ads

We have warned you about cryptojacking scripts on websites and in apps: they use your device to mine cryptocurrencies. We have warned you about malicious ads that are linked to all kinds of cyber threats.

And now guess what? correct: ads have been caught for stealth mining.

Crypto-Streaming Strikes Back

Brief summary: while hardening AdGuard’s crypto-jacking protection, we discovered four involved popular websites (mostly streaming) with an aggregated audience of almost a billion people.

We have already told you in our blog (part 1, part 2, part 3) about the problem of stealth mining (the so-called "cryptojacking"), but this story is not going to end. Just two(!) months after its first launch, this technology has been used on thousands of websites with a total estimated traffic of a billion(!) monthly visits. Now, after an additional three weeks have passed, we must regretfully report that cryptomining has soared to even greater heights.

Ad blockers were first to respond to this new menace and implement protection against mining on websites. Thanks to the popularity of ad blockers, a significant portion of Internet users received the necessary protection in a very timely manner. Naturally, "crypto-jackers" are not pleased with this counteraction.