Cryptojacking: Its Dangers and Ways of Protection

Written by Evgenia Sidorova
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Cryptojacking: Its Dangers and Ways of Protection

Mining is a powerful tool of blockchain that can make you more prosperous and thus happy. That’s really great but keep in mind that not all types of mining are equally beneficial for you. This hot topic attracts not only responsible and conscientious investors but also numerous scammers and unscrupulous rascals. They can make your online presence and blockchain experience not so smooth. Have you ever heard of cryptojacking? No? But you’d better know the definition of this phenomenon in advance to avoid asking “What is cryptojacking?” after you have already become a victim of cybercrime.

Let’s try to learn as much as possible about it not to fall for the bait to scammers.

What Is Cryptojacking: Who, Why, and How?

To make a long story short, imagine that your computing device has betrayed you and uses your resources to earn money for somebody else. And you, alas, have to pay for it. This becomes possible due to cryptojacking malware, the software that is developed to infect a computer system of another user without their permission and knowledge. As a result, bad guys gain access to your device and use your resources to earn rewards in cryptocurrency on blockchain platforms.

Any type of computing device can be infected: laptops, desktops, and smartphones. Nothing is immune from this without taking some security measures. And unfortunately, the risks of facing this problem get higher and higher with time as an interest in earnings via blockchain is constantly growing. For a better understanding of this problem, let’s have a deeper insight into the crypto basics starting with cryptocurrencies and their importance.

Basics on Cryptocurrencies

Not all victims of hackers are crypto-savvy and often they need to have a bit of explanation about why the attackers need their facilities. And they don’t understand what cryptocurrencies are and why they are so valuable for malicious miners.

Actually, there is nothing difficult about it and the idea of crypto money is quite simple. This is a digital alternative to traditional offline financial tools and payment systems. Its main peculiarity is it is not backed by any government and its value is defined only by supply and demand. It has no actual physical form and exists in the form of digital coins and tokens that are often opposed to fiats.

Bitcoin (BTC) is the most popular coin which is the oldest and most valuable at the same time. Other coins that are not BTC are called altcoins. Ether (ETH) is Bitcoin’s closest rival while other coins are not so popular and valuable.

By introducing cryptocurrencies, blockchain enthusiasts strive to solve some problems inherent in traditional centralized fiats issued by state governments. These are avoiding fraud risks, increased anonymity, lower operational costs, high speed of transaction, availability, and security.

Blockchain participants can obtain coins in different ways. The fastest way is to buy them on the online exchange. It is also possible to take part in ICO, airdrops, or various events that are performed by numerous platforms. But one of the most popular forms of getting tokens is mining.

Do not let the word “mining” mislead you. It has nothing in common with coal mines where underground resources are extracted. Modern mining is quite another thing. By doing “mining” you actually validate transactions on the blockchain ensuring resources for them. Not all tokens are minable but mining forms the basis for some networks as they would become dysfunctional without it.

Mining is very attractive for crypto enthusiasts as it allows them to receive crypto “for free.” This is particularly important for those who want to acquire Bitcoin which price is the highest among cryptocurrencies. At the same time, this method can be called free very conditionally. To perform successfully, your personal computer will not be enough and you’ll have to invest a sizeable amount of money in equipment and electricity.

From this point, it becomes clear why hackers need your resources for their blockchain performance.

Cryptojacking as It Is

As it was already mentioned above, mining requires resources. Successful mining of the most valuable crypto asset BTC demands huge resources. Instead of investing their money in processing power, some miners take quite a different path. They infect other users’ devices and steal their computing power. This gives hackers an opportunity to benefit from the vast computing resources of many unsuspecting victims creating their own network for mining practically for free.

Victims frequently don’t even realize at first that they are robbed. Most cryptojacking programs are designed to be unnoticed by most inexperienced users and they don’t damage the data on the device. But if you don’t notice them, this doesn’t mean that they don’t work and do no harm. As a result, your device will get rapidly worn out and you’ll have to pay immense electricity bills.

In this case, you are most likely a person who pays for the mining of somebody else while this miner makes a profit.

How do They Do It?

Actually, the ways of the PC infections are not ingenious and are the same as with any other malware. Usually, a user clicks on a link in an email, visits a malicious website, or uses an untested USB drive. All these techniques are old but still effective.

There is also an alternative method of cryptojacking – browser mining. In this case, malware isn’t installed on a system. Instead, hackers embed a piece of JavaScript code into a website. You start mining when you have this website loaded and the process will be taking place not only while you are staying there. It will continue even after you have left the website.

The popularity of smartphone apps provides a great inflow of new power suppliers. Android mobile devices also can be easily infected after downloads of apps.

Is the Situation Serious?

If you still underestimate the menace, here are some sobering statistics only for 2018  just to give you an idea:

  1. Summer of 2018: Cryptomining Coinhive malware was spread to more than 200,000 MikroTik routers in Brazil.
  2. Early 2018: Hackers deployed Coinhive on YouTube Ads.
  3. Beginning of 2018: A water utility in Europe was seriously hit by cryptocurrency malware that made its server mine Monero.
  4. Beginning of 2018: A cryptojacking attack was found on the Los Angeles Times website.

And the forecasts are disappointing, apparently, the number of attacks will increase with the growth of cryptocurrency value. The risks for hackers are very low that is why they will not quit trying to get their way.

How to Know if You Are Cryptojacked

There are no obvious and univocal signs that you could be involved in cryptojacking. For most users, the only indication they’ve been cryptojacked is an unexplainable noticeable slowdown in their device performance and CPU overprocessing. The batteries on your devices are overheated. You feel the deficiency of available processing power even for those operations that are not power-intensive. And, of course, you enjoy unexpectedly significant electricity costs.

You see, these signs could be explained by any other reason. You can use more electricity than usual or your PC may go wrong because of factors that lay far from scammers and cryptojacking scripts. That is why don’t get too comfortable. You need to be alert to some of the symptoms of possible cybercrime.

Protect Yourself

As always, it is easier to prevent cryptojacking than to fight its consequences. And the methods of prevention are not complex. Just maintain good online hygiene. Don’t follow suspicious links or visit insecure websites.

Improve the security of your web browser. Use a reliable ad blocker to deactivate potentially dangerous scripts. Try to avoid connecting devices of other users to your PC system. Keep your browser extensions and antivirus up to date.

These tips are easy to follow and they will work with any other online threat but many users neglect them.

Bottom Line

In the modern world, blockchain technology is constantly moving on. But as with any other technology, it has its demerits and unscrupulous people take advantage of them. Cryptojacking is an example of such malevolent activities that may spoil your online performance. The only way to avoid falling victim to this malware is to increase your awareness of computer-aided solutions and keep pace with their development. In this text, we’ve answered the question “What is cryptojacking?”, so now you can easily avoid this threat.

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