How Your Computer Is Mining Cryptocurrencies Without You Even Knowing   

February 12, 2018 / by Mousa Yassin
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How Your Computer Is Mining Cryptocurrencies Without You Even Knowing   

Someone could secretly be using your computer or phone to mine cryptocurrencies by installing malware. It’s called cryptojacking, a new hacking trend that is developing fast and acquiring fans every day.

Let’s start with a quick recap of how cryptocurrency mining works:
  • Cryptocurrencies, contrary to regular currencies, are not physical notes produced by a Central Bank.
  • The production line is decentralized as they are produced by a network of miners using separate devices, who ensure transactions are working properly.
  • Miners are remunerated according to the amount their computers generate:  this process is called Cryptomining.

Cryptomining is specially designed to require heavy and highly performant hardware and software in order to limit production, restrict the currencies’ availability and stabilize the market. Therefore, in order to become a miner, one will need several Graphic Cards (GPU), high levels of power and energy supplies (recommended amount is over 1000w) and a higher Hash Rate (number of calculations performed per second). Transactions will be recorded in ledgers which constitute a Blockchain that legitimatizes and confirms transactions.  (Wait! “What the hell is blockchain?!”)

Now let’s get into cryptojacking:

Since mining requires significant volumes of energy and processing power, Cryptominers have found a way to increase them, reduce their cost and thus increase their earnings. They do that by exploiting other people’s devices through pushing malware on their computers, tablets or mobile phones.

Hackers have also found a way to install the malware on several websites, e-commerce platforms, mobile applications and gaming websites. Which means that as long as you are logged onto these pages and download those applications, you are allowing hackers to use the power of your device. This type isn’t always secret and some websites inform visitors that mining activity is being conducted in the background.

How does this impact your device?

The spikes in background processing power and energy consumption reduce your device’s performance and battery life, and most importantly, increase your device’s exposure to other viruses, malware, and ransomware. Victims will find their handheld devices hotter than usual or can notice a difference in their laptop’s fan speed.

User’s opinion is mitigated on cryptojacking matters. Many people are concerned about this invasive practice and its potentially harmful impacts on devices, while some don’t mind sharing their unused device’s power and performance to help someone increase their revenues.

However, like all other malware and hacking issues, cryptojacking is deceitful, lacks ethics and is just another way of stealing.

How can you protect your device from cryptojacking?

The best way to detect and protect your device is by keeping an eye on your operating system by checking your Task Manager for spikes in processing power, as everything occurs in the background and signs are not visible to common users. When subjected to cryptojacking, your device will have higher CPU and memory usage, with overheating and low battery life even while performing minor tasks like reading a simple article.

The same goes for handheld devices, as early signs could also be unexplained data surcharges, high temperature or battery drains. Make sure to keep an eye on your Task Managers and stay vigilant about sudden and unusual changes in your device’s speed and CPU processing. You can see an example of high processing spikes here.

Easy steps you can take today:
  • Install a highly performant and strong antivirus
  • Use browser extensions like No Coin, MinerBlock, NoScript to block all known suspicious mining sources
  • Update your operating system constantly (including patch updates).
  • Manually block suspicious domains and ads
  • Avoid illegitimate downloads and disabling third-party download authorizations on your phone

We advise all our readers to make sure they are constantly running the newest and most performant technologies and antiviruses to keep up with the various types of threats that arise every day.

Drop us a line if you want to learn more or if you wish to book an IT Health check to ensure your IT environment is well protected.

 

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