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International media: UC researchers discover cryptojacking almost conquered

The practice of cryptojacking, the theft of computing power to mine digital currency, has been significantly reduced with the shuttering of a notorious crypotomining service last year, according to a paper released this week by researchers at the University of Cincinnati and Lakehead University.

The research earned media coverage by NakedSecurity by Sophos and The Register.

In a paper [PDF] distributed through ArXiv, "Is Cryptojacking Dead after Coinhive Shutdown?," presented earlier this month at the third International Conference on Information and Computer Technologies in Santa Clara, Calif., UC researchers Murat Ozer, Bilal Gonen, and Said Varlioglu, and Lakehead researcher Mehmet F. Bastug discovered that the closure last year of Coinhive made cryptomining a “less lucrative” source of income for website owners.

That’s because, the researchers explain, Coinhive provided the JavaScript code that websites could incorporate to make visitors’ computers mine Monero, a cryptocurrency that appeals to cybercriminals due to its difficulty to trace. Coinhive’s code—marketed as a monetization alternative to advertising but which became abused—could also be injected into a website by hackers without the site owner’s knowledge.

Coinhive closed last year after Monero tanked, due to the fact that, the researchers say, website-based advertising remains more profitable than cybermining.

“It is still alive but not as appealing as it was before," the researchers explain in their paper. "It became less attractive not only because Coinhive discontinued their service, but also because it became a less lucrative source of income for website owners. For most of the websites, ads are still more profitable than mining."

UC's Ozer and Gonen are assistant professors of information technology, and Varlioglu is a doctoral student in information technology. All three hail from UC’s School of Information Technology in the College of Education, Criminal Justice, Human Services, and Information Technology.

Read the media coverage in NakedSecurity by Sophos   and The Register.

Featured image at top: Stock photo/NakedSecurity by Sophos