What is cryptojacking and how can you avoid being used illicitly to mine cryptocurrencies

At the beginning of 2018 a new trend in malware which today has become one of the biggest security threats on the web: cryptojacking or illicit cryptocurrency mining, a type of malicious code that can hijack the processing power of your device to extract cryptocurrencies without your permission and without you knowing.

It's a problem that seems to only get worse, especially given the new golden age of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. In fact, for companies like Microsoft itself, cryptojacking represents the biggest threat in cybersecurity today, even more worrying than ransomware attacks, with increasingly complex and difficult-to-detect mechanisms of action.

What is cryptojacking

Crypto mining

Cryptojacking, illicit or malicious crypto mining, is a type of cyber attack that basically steals your computer's processing power to mine cryptocurrencies. You can be a victim of cryptojacking in multiple ways, be it by installing a program infected with malicious code, or even simply visiting an infected website.

A famous case that you may have heard about, was The Pirate Bay and how the torrent website was using the CPU of all the users who visited the web to do crypto mining without the consent of anyone. But it was not the only one, and these types of problems are becoming more and more common.

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Varieties is what is left over: You can find cryptominers in malicious extensions, or mobile applications, even in WiFi networks, so it is important to be more attentive than ever to these types of threats.

Crypto miners can take over your browser, they can compromise all kinds of devices, from your PC to your mobile, and even network servers. Some cryptojacking scripts can act like a worm, which allow them to infect other devices and servers on the same network.

How to detect if I am a victim of cryptojacking and how to prevent it

Dmitry Demidko Gohvuwwn He Unsplash Blog

One of the main objectives of cryptojacking is to make the most of the victim's device resources without the victim's knowledge, however, since these types of malware always seek to squeeze all the processing power of the hardware they infect, in order to mine more cryptocurrencies, the device will show symptoms:

  • The performance of your device will decline substantiallyThings like a slow, extremely slow computer, overheating, increased fan activity, or even battery "bloat" on Android phones, and computers that shut down on their own because the CPU temperature rises too high.

If you use the Task Manager in Windows or the Resource Monitor in macOS you can detect processes that are constantly using 100% of your CPU, something that is not normal in the vast majority of cases, especially if it is the browser and you are not really executing demanding tasks.

Guide to know if they are using me to mine cryptocurrencies on the Internet

Protecting yourself from cryptojacking is not as simple as protecting yourself from other malware attacks. Although you can (and should) take into account the most common prevention measures such as using some type of antivirus solution on your computer, not installing software from unofficial sites, be careful with the extensions that you add to your browser, and with the links you open, sometimes a legitimate website can be compromised and infect you without your suspicions.

Some additional options to prevent being a victim of cryptojacking include installing extensions such as Minerblock that block all types of cryptominers on the web. However, browsers like Opera and Firefox already include their own built-in tools to block crypto mining.

In addition to this, some ad blockers like Adblock Plus and uBlock Origin include specific lists to block mining. Whatever options you use, it is recommended that you also monitor your computer's resource consumption from time to time, especially when you notice changes in performance, slowness, or that those fans suddenly start to make a lot of noise.

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