XMRig Malware

XMRig is open-source software designed for mining cryptocurrencies like Monero or Bitcoin. However, it is also commonly abused by cybercriminals in their attacks, who infect computers with cryptojackers and use their resources to mine cryptocurrency on the attacker’s behalf.

Cryptomining or cryptojacking malware like XMRig often grows and ebbs in popularity as the value of cryptocurrency changes. According to Check Point’s 2022 Cyber Security Report, XMRig was the tenth most common malware worldwide in 2021 and the top cryptominer, accounting for 43% of cryptomining attacks.

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How the Malware Works

Proof of Work (PoW) cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin and Monero, use a process called mining to help secure the blockchain. To find a valid form of a block to add to the blockchain, a miner needs to perform computationally expensive operations. Miners are incentivized for their efforts by earning rewards for creating blocks.

XMRig and other cryptomining malware are designed to use infected computers to mine cryptocurrency on the attacker’s behalf. With PoW cryptocurrencies, the more computational power that a user controls, the more rewards they can earn. With the computational power provided by infected computers, an attacker using XMRig to mine Monero and other cryptocurrencies can earn rewards without paying for the equipment or electricity needed to perform the computationally-expensive mining operations.

The Threat

Cryptomining malware like XMRig usually only wants access to an organization’s systems for their computational power. Since it is open-source, it can be integrated into other malware with different purposes, but the XMRig code by itself is not designed to steal sensitive information, encrypt data, etc.

This means that the main threat of the XMRig malware is the use of an organization’s resources and the effects of this usage. XMRig may consume CPU cycles, which could decrease the availability or performance of IT systems for legitimate users. This consumption could also carry costs to the organization in the form of increased usage of electricity, climate control systems, and other resources.

Target Industries

XMRig is an opportunistic malware that is intended to steal computational resources rather than sensitive data of any kind. For this reason, it does not target any particular industries, spreading via malicious advertisements and being bundled with cybercriminals other attacks.

How to Recognize XMRig

As cryptojacking malware, XMRig consumes a lot of CPU resources, which can cause a computer to run more slowly and overheat. If a computer is less responsive and is running hot for extended periods, this may indicate that it is infected with XMRig or another cryptomining malware.

XMRig is a trojan, meaning that it masquerades as a legitimate program but conceals unwanted or malicious functionality. XMRig is commonly distributed as a fake update to Adobe Flash Player — which was officially deprecated in 2020 — and may also be bundled with other unwanted applications distributed via fake ads or software downloads.

XMRig is well-known cryptomining software, and most anti-malware solutions are capable of recognizing it. For this reason, the best way to identify XMRig is by using a reputable endpoint security solution.

How to Protect Against XMRig Malware

XMRig is legitimate, open-source cryptocurrency mining software that is commonly integrated by cybercriminals into their attacks. As a result, it may enter an organization’s systems in various ways. Some of the means by which an organization can protect against the XMRig malware include the following:

  • Endpoint Security Solutions: XMRig is a common cryptomining malware that can be detected by endpoint security solutions. Deploying these solutions can prevent XMRig malware from infecting a device or detect the high CPU utilization associated with mining and terminate its operations.
  • Security Awareness Training: XMRig is a trojan that often masquerades as a fake update to Adobe Flash Player. Training employees to recognize and properly respond to this can help protect an organization’s systems against XMRig.
  • Anti-Phishing Protection: Trojans like XMRig may be spread by phishing emails. Anti-phishing protections can identify malicious content within phishing emails and prevent the malware from reaching an organization’s systems.
  • Secure Web Browsing: XMRig is often spread via malicious advertisements and bundled with other potentially unwanted programs (PUPs). Safe browsing solutions that prevent employees from visiting suspicious or malicious sites that may deliver these ads and that block the download and installation of malicious or unwanted programs is essential to XMRig prevention.

XMRig Malware Detection and Protection with Check Point

XMRig is the top cryptomining malware of 2021 and one of the top malware variants overall. For more information about XMRig and other major malware and cyber threats that companies face, check out Check Point’s 2022 Cyber Security Report.

Minimizing the cost and damage caused by XMRig and other malware requires robust endpoint threat prevention that can identify both known and novel threats. Check Point Harmony Endpoint can detect and block XMRig and other top malware variants. For more information about Harmony Endpoint’s capabilities, request a free demo today.

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