It’s no news that cybercriminals are always looking for more ways to use technology to make more money with the least amount of effort. One of the latest offenses that have come to the surface is cryptojacking.
Cryptojacking can be defined as the unauthorized or illegal use of a person’s computer to mine for cryptocurrency without the owner being aware of it.
In 2019, cybersecurity company Webroot listed down Cryptojacking as one of the most dangerous malwares in its list of the nastiest malware of 2019, describing it as a much more low-risk method that hackers are using to make money more insidious than ransomware.
Even though it hasn’t been long since the threat was first introduced, the criminals behind its creation have developed and perfected it into one of the most complex threat models that presents itself in different variants and goes after unsuspecting devices.
A Word on Crypto-mining
To understand what Cryptojacking is, how it happens, and the best ways to detect and recover from it, let’s start by taking a deeper look at what crypto-mining is and how it is done. Crypto-mining is a mechanism used to maintain the security and integrity of the blockchain with a distributed ledger keeping track of any payments.
Every time a new block of transactions is added to these blockchains, “miners” or computers used for “mining” cryptocurrency solve a series of complex mathematical problems to validate the data.
Every time a brand-new block goes through the process and is registered, the amount of cryptocurrency in the wallet in the device that was the first to solve the validation equation is updated with the new amount.
In recent years, mining for cryptocurrency has turned into a lucrative business opportunity. Crypto-enthusiasts have even set up crypto-mining farms that consist of vast networks of powerful machines competing against millions in the crypto business for rewards.
Naturally, the avenue has been of interest for hackers and cybercriminals since it was launched, which eventually led to cryptojacking.
Cryptojacking: How It Works And Why It Is Risky
Somewhere in the world, a hacker could be using the resources of your computer for mining cryptocurrency, and you’d never be aware of it—this is exactly what Cryptojacking is. This crypto-mining malware came to the surface just a couple of years ago as a way to use a person’s CPU to perform crypto-mining calculations. The hackers behind these operations usually consolidate the resources from the infected machines to create entire crypto-farms—all without the users ever being aware of it.
Having said that, there is no actual cap on how much cryptocurrency can be generated by Cryptojacking—making it an ideal avenue for hackers to venture into. It seems to grow in popularity with each passing day because it is a high-money venture with very little risks.
Another advantage that cryptojackers seem to get away with is that the risk of being caught and identified is much lesser than ransomware. The code is inconspicuous and can run for days without being detected, and even if it is, it’s hard to trace it back to who planted it in the first place.
Cryptojacking Detection—Signs to Look Out For
Cryptojacking is hard to detect, but it’s not impossible, and cybersecurity experts have concluded that there are three tell-tale signs to look out for.
The first one is decreased performance. If your computer is performing consistently slow, it needs to be charged more frequently. It has started to crash randomly, and there is a noticeable decrease in performance; the issue might be worth looking into.
This usually results from the intensive calculations required to mine cryptocurrency and can, over time, even lead to damage to your machine, inevitably meaning resulting in a much shorter life span. I
f you’ve noticed that your computer has been heating up fast and the fan has been running faster than usual to cool it down, it would be a good idea to explore for issues.
Increased CPU Usage
Performing complicated calculations extensively uses a lot of CPU power. Suppose the nature of your work on your device hasn’t changed, and your CPU seems to be overperforming for no real reason, in addition to other signs like decreased performance and overheating. In that case, it could be safe to assume that something fishy could be going on.
While these three signs are not limited to Cryptojacking and can point towards other issues as well, observing two or more of these signs at once warrants a check for Cryptojacking.
It goes how they say; prevention is better than cure. The best way to make sure that you don’t fall victim to crimes such as Cryptojacking is to stay informed and boost your cybersecurity. Here are some ways that you can prevent Cryptojacking.
Use Browser Extensions to Block Cryptojacking
More often than not, Cryptojacking scripts are deployed in web browsers. You can make use of specialized browser extensions to block cryptojackers from getting into your machine. Some examples of browser extensions that block Cryptojacking are minerBlock, AntiMiner, and NoCoin.
Use a VPN Product
The best and the safest way to make sure that you don’t fall victim to Cryptojacking and similar crimes is to use a VPN service. A VPN works by hiding your original IP address and letting you connect to the internet using a remote and secure server, which also lends you its IP address.
This makes sure that you’re surfing and online activities are completely anonymous and private, letting you stay safe from hackers and other cybercrimes, including Cryptojacking.