At first glance drive by mining may not seem that bad, but taking advantage of the visitor’s CPU resources to mine cryptocurrencies can have serious implications. Criminals have quickly adapted this technology, demonstrating that drive-by mining can be used as an easy source of income. High traffic websites with security misconfigurations are targeted for code injection. Then, without the consent of the website owner or the individuals visiting the website, their resources are used to help fund criminal organizations.
Cryptocurrency mining can also be an extremely labor intensive task for devices. The code has been known to make systems freeze or crash, causing data and time loss. If the actor implementing the miner is especially thoughtless or malicious, the code can be set to use all available CPU power. This is known as Code Full Throttle and will not only cause your device to fail but has the potential to damage your hardware.
Am I a Victim?
Unless the hosting websites asks for user permission to run the mining script (which services such as Coinhive have began to do – Figure 1), it may not be immediately clear that you are mining a cryptocurrency. The are several tell-tale signs that the web-page you are on is using a drive-by mining script: the device will be warmer than normal, the fan noise will increase, the mouse and keyboard may be slow or unresponsive and the device’s general performance could decrease.
Resource monitoring applications are a simple way to tell if a website is running a mining script. If no other applications or tabs are open and the device’s resource use spikes on a web-page, then it is likely that the device is mining for cryptocurrency.
Drive-by Mining is Here to Stay
What can you do?
There is no perfect answers to security questions, but staying aware of the latest threats is half the battle.