Many crypto enthusiasts like to mine their coins instead of simply trading for them. Users can dedicate their own devices to evaluate crypto hashes for the blockchain. Doing this earns a bit of crypto coins in the process. For example, validating exchanges on the Monero network would mine some coins that you can store in a dedicated Monero wallet.
While this does earn a bit, it also takes heavy computing power to accomplish. Not everyone has the processing power necessary to mine, so some find discreet ways to use other people’s devices for cryptomining. This is called cryptojacking, and it’s a problem that afflicts hundreds of thousands of computers around the world.
You cannot avoid a problem that you know nothing about, so here are some facts about cryptojacking.
Get Familiar with How It Happens
The solution begins with understanding how cryptojacking happens. In essence, it works much like a virus, but instead of stealing data, it redirects processing power towards mining crypto for someone else. For now, there appears to be three main ways in which cryptojacking infiltrates a computer.
i. Downloading a file
Much like traditional viruses, a cryptojacking program could be disguised as a file or buried into a strange application. These are delivered to potential victims often through phishing emails, or unsuspecting internet users may download the file from a file sharing site by mistake.
ii. Browsing malicious sites
Nowadays, malware does not even need to be installed onto your device to take effect. In this case, cryptojacking can come in the form of executable scripts embedded into websites through ads and plug-ins. These do not need to be clicked to affect your device. Ideally, you close the tab or the whole browser to stop this.
iii. Through infected cloud services
This usually concerns larger entities that rely on cloud-based services to connect numerous devices. A cryptojacker could hack into the online storage of a company or organization for API keys that grant them access to their cloud network. Then, they simply insert the program script into pertinent files that find their way onto multiple computers.
Signs of Cryptojacking
Now that you know how it happens, you probably have a basic idea of how to avoid falling victim to cryptojacking. The problem is that the people behind these attacks can be very clever about how to get into your system. Just in case you might have already been attacked, here are some signs that your computer is mining crypto for someone else.
The most obvious sign is your computer’s performance. Your workstation can have its off days, but when it’s almost unusable, maybe something on your computer is drawing unwanted power. Another obvious reason is your computer throttling too often. If you aren’t even running complex tasks, your computer could be mining crypto without your knowledge.
A simple way to diagnose your computer for any unwanted programs is by monitoring your CPU usage. You might find one or several applications that you don’t remember installing. You should immediately delete these before they do any more damage to your computer.
If it isn’t an application, it could be your browser taking up a lot of power. In that case, you must go through the websites and tabs that you have open. Although there are sites that are known to be resource heavy, you might want to be wary of domains that you don’t frequent and close these. If you still can’t tell, it’s safest to just force restart your browser altogether.
After taking the necessary precautions, your computer may still have issues. After all, there’s only so much that deleting applications and closing browsers can do. When it comes to this, you should take more thorough steps to address the issue.
i. Anti-malware programs
Even after deleting a suspicious application, the malware itself could remain in your computer. These programs often inject numerous little scripts hidden too deep into your device to find. Anti-malware software solves this for you by sweeping your entire system for such files and deleting them. Fortunately, there are many free ones, but you must make sure to choose a reputable one.
ii. Browser extensions
You are most vulnerable to cryptojackers while you’re browsing on the internet. Ads are everywhere online, even on the most popular sites around the world. There’s no way of knowing on your own if an ad or plug-in on a webpage is already afflicting your computer.
Fortunately, there are browser extensions made specifically to guard you while you scour the web. For general use, ad-blockers are a go-to for avoiding cryptojacking attempts that are hidden in site ads as well as intrusive web content overall. If you want more intensive cryptojacking protection, there are anti-cryptojacking extensions as well built specifically to combat any kind of cryptomining malware.
iii. Inform your people
This advice goes to companies who want to protect their resources. Considering their networks of devices, they stand more to lose if one computer falls victim to cryptojacking. For this, it’s a good idea to train your IT specialists on diagnosing and deterring cryptojacking. Likewise, the rest of your employees should be briefed to exercise caution on this digital threat.
While these are good practices to deter most vulnerabilities to cryptojacking, it’s still important to research further. As the technology evolves, so do the methods of infiltrating personal computers and even mobile devices. You must stay up to date and perhaps invest in stronger cyber security measures if you want to avoid this problem altogether.