MineSweeper: An in-depth look into drive-by cryptocurrency mining and its defense

Radhesh Krishnan Konoth, Emanuele Vineti, Veelasha Moonsamy, Martina Lindorfer, Christopher Kruegel, Herbert Bos, Giovanni Vigna

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

A wave of alternative coins that can be effectively mined without specialized hardware, and a surge in cryptocurrencies’ market value has led to the development of cryptocurrency mining (cryptomining) services, such as Coinhive, which can be easily integrated into websites to monetize the computational power of their visitors. While legitimate website operators are exploring these services as an alternative to advertisements, they have also drawn the attention of cybercriminals: drive-by mining (also known as cryptojacking) is a new web-based attack, in which an infected website secretly executes JavaScript code and/or a WebAssembly module in the user’s browser to mine cryptocurrencies without her consent. In this paper, we perform a comprehensive analysis on Alexa’s Top 1 Million websites to shed light on the prevalence and profitability of this attack. We study the websites affected by drive-by mining to understand the techniques being used to evade detection, and the latest web technologies being exploited to efficiently mine cryptocurrency. As a result of our study, which covers 28 Coinhive-like services that are widely being used by drive-by mining websites, we identified 20 active cryptomining campaigns. Motivated by our findings, we investigate possible countermeasures against this type of attack. We discuss how current blacklisting approaches and heuristics based on CPU usage are insufficient, and present MineSweeper, a novel detection technique that is based on the intrinsic characteristics of cryptomining code, and, thus, is resilient to obfuscation. Our approach could be integrated into browsers to warn users about silent cryptomining when visiting websites that do not ask for their consent.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCCS 2018 - Proceedings of the 2018 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Pages1714-1730
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781450356930
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2018
Event25th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security, CCS 2018 - Toronto, Canada
Duration: 15 Oct 2018 → …

Conference

Conference25th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security, CCS 2018
CountryCanada
CityToronto
Period15/10/18 → …

Keywords

  • Cryptocurrency
  • Cryptojacking
  • Drive-by attacks
  • Malware
  • Mining

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