By now, you’re probably aware of cryptocurrencies. Very simply stated, these are de-centralized digital currencies which can be used to buy or sell anything. To create these currencies, you need a system (computer) to mine them. This is where Cryptojacking steps in. Read this guide to understand everything you need to know about Cryptojacking.
What is Cryptojacking?
To put it simply, Cryptojacking is a way for hackers to make money (Cryptocurrencies) using the hardware of their victims.
A hacker will use the computers of their targets to run complicated computations that create new tokens in the cryptocurrency world. In other words, they use up your processing power to make virtual money. This process can be implemented either through malware or through a browser.
This is dangerous because it ends up using up your processing power, sometimes even overwhelming your system, without you even knowing it. It’s very difficult (but not impossible) to know when your device is being used for Cryptojacking.
How does Cryptojacking Differ from Crypto Mining?
There is no attributed difference between Cryptojacking and crypto mining other than the legality of the act. Crypto miners are people whose job is to mine new cryptocurrency tokens. Cryptojacking is unauthorized and illegal crypto mining.
Authentic crypto miners use their own systems to mine the currencies. That way, they can optimize those systems to be able to handle the processing power needed for the mining. Hackers don’t care if your system can handle the process or not. They’ll be making money while you suffer the burden of overwhelmed hardware all by yourself.
Why is Cryptojacking Popular?
Recently, this particular method of mining cryptocurrency has been rising in popularity. So much so that no one really knows how much cryptocurrency has been mined using this practice.
What we do know, though, is that cryptojacking is easy. Very easy. In fact, you don’t even need to have a background in tech to cryptojack.
Before cryptojacking got so popular, attackers used to use a kind of malware known as ransomware. They’d lock their target out of their device and ask for a ransom to unlock it. While some targets do end up paying the ransom, others will just change the device.
Cryptojacking came in strong as an alternative way of making money illegally. Instead of having to deal with the targets, a cryptojacker simply lets the malware or the browser do its job.
To add to this, there is a very minimal risk for an attacker. The malware used in this process does absolutely nothing else to your system. Why would a target do anything about this other than remove the malware?
How Does Cryptojacking Work?
There are two ways a hacker can use your computer to mine cryptocurrency.
- By infecting your system with malware.
- By injecting a script on a website or an ad.
If your system is infected by malware, the crypto mining process will run silently in the background at all times. It’ll slow your processing power down but won’t actually affect your data in any way.
Most attackers use a combination of both methods to increase the amount of mined cryptocurrency and will try to affect as many targets as possible. Honestly, though, all this does is slow down a target’s computer.
How to Detect Cryptojacking
If the attacker is using a website or an ad to cryptojack, it’s not up to you to detect this. This will fall on the owners of the sites themselves.
Malware is a different story. It’s not always detectable without an anti-malware program, but the tell-tale signs are:
- Slow response times on your computer.
- High CPU usages (which you can check in Task Manager)
Regularly run a full anti-malware check to see if your system is protected or not.
How to Prevent Cryptojacking
There are a few things you can do to protect yourself from possible cryptojacking.
First, always have a trusted anti-malware program installed on your system. Make sure that’s it’s constantly up-to-date. There are anti-malware programs that have the ability to detect crypto-miners in browsers, too.
You can also install a browser extension on most browsers that blacklists mining scripts. This makes it easier for you to figure out when a website is using you for crypto mining. If you do notice a website doing that, all you have to do is change tabs or exit the browser. Finally, you can use a VPN service to protect your data and traffic, even from cryptojacking scams.