What is Cryptojacking – How it Steals Your Computing Resources
By Nick Anderson 5 minutes
One of the prominent developments in the tech space over the past few years has been the rise of cryptocurrency. Seen as an alternative to physical money, digital currency such as Bitcoin multiplied by ten folds in value in just a few months. This prompted many people to get on the hype and start earning cryptocurrency of their own.
This blog will educate you on what Cryptojacking is and how phishing attempts can trick you into stealing computing resources.
Cryptocurrency – What is it?
Cryptocurrency is completely digital. It does not exist physically,but its value can be traded for goods in the real world. It’s not printable money and exists only in 0s and 1s. A person with cryptocurrency will store it in his digital wallet.
The main attraction of cryptocurrency is that it’s decentralized. Unlike paper currency that is regulated and circulated by banks, cryptocurrency is free of all forms of regulations. So, no matter which country you live in, the value of cryptocurrency will remain constant. Moreover, trading cryptocurrency does not depend on a central entity such as a bank to process the payment and charge you for the process.
Records of transactions are shared in a ledger that’s available to everyone to prevent fake transactions.
The advantage of a cryptocurrency over the standard real-world currency is that it can be earned through nothing more than a computer. It’s a digital currency, and the exercise of producing it is called mining. The “crypto” part of cryptocurrency defines the encrypted nature of the currency. Complex mathematical problems need to be solved in order to mine coins.
Mining requires computational power, lots of it. Malicious content is always out there on the internet, waiting to steal your data, but your computing resources became more valuable in the wake of cryptocurrency.
What is Cryptojacking?
Cryptojacking defines the malicious act of using someone’s computing resources to mine cryptocurrency. Over the years, as cryptocurrencies have boomed and everyone wanted to generate their coins, things took a turn for the worse.
New malicious code was written to target victims and leech computing resources of their devices without their knowledge. Once a mining program enters your system, it will run in the background and generate coins for the attacker.
It happens without the knowledge of the user; the only way you can catch a mining code in the system is through monitoring resources. If your computer suddenly feels slow or even for a few minutes, then you may have been cryptojacked.
As we explained, cryptocurrency is mined by solving complex mathematical problems. Taking Bitcoin as an example, the complexity and time to mine a single coin increased significantly with time as coins continued to be mined. It required miners to step up computational power to keep up with the demand. From desktop PCs to entire computer farms running 24/7, cryptocurrency mining has come a long way. The cost of running swarm of computers generate high electricity cost.
Cryptojacking allows cybercriminals to bypass that cost by using the average user’s computer instead. A single computer mining these days yields no favorable results, which is why a cybercriminal will target a large number of people with the same code to achieve those results.
Aside from Phishing, another – less common – way to leech resources is by injecting scripts into a website. In this method, the code executes when a user visits the infected website. The malicious code is never stored on your device, and runs remain active until you close the website.
How to Prevent Cryptojacking
Frequent unexplained slowdowns could be a sign that your system has been cryptojacked. Once you have identified something is wrong by evaluating real-time resource consumption, you can begin by eliminating it.
The number one way cryptojacking works is through Phishing. A phishing attempt is a way to trick a user into downloading a malicious file/program or visiting a malicious link.
Phishing relies on two things. Firstly, the user should be unsuspecting and not savvy enough to tell apart a phishing attempt, and secondly, the attempt itself must be convincing enough. In the case of email phishing, the email will be fabricated to look like it’s coming from a trusted source, or the subject matter requires urgent attention. You can learn more about Phishing in our blog here.
The first rule of preventing any malicious piece of code from entering your system is mindful of what you download and from where you download. Any email from an unknown sender that’s asking you to download a file or visit a link should immediately sound off alarms in your mind.
If you are in the habit of downloading from public torrent websites, then you need to be very careful. Legitimate programs may serve as trojan or a bundle for malicious code. The nature of torrent websites allows anyone to upload a torrent and wait for others to download.
Always have an anti-virus installed on your system. Not only will it offer real-time protection against threats, but it will also scan links and downloads. If you are on a public Wi-Fi network, then secure the connection with a VPN that guarantees AES 256-bit level encryption.
Remember to invest in a good anti-virus; it will ensure protection against malicious downloads and URLs. But investing in securing your internet communication is also important as someone on an unsecured network could steal your data or divert your traffic to malicious domains.