Cryptocurrency has increased dramatically in popularity over the last year, and that’s great news for crypto investors – but it’s also inspired a new wave of hacking, known as ‘ Cryptojacking.’ It’s the latest hacking trend: hackers can install cryptocurrency mining malware on your device and turn it into a crypto mine without your knowledge or consent. Thankfully, there are ways to protect yourself against this new online menace – and here’s what you need to know.
How Bitcoin has Grown Over the Past Year
In 2017, Bitcoin grew from an underground cryptocurrency into a major, worldwide phenomenon. At the start of the year, a single bitcoin was worth a paltry $800. Fast forward to December 2107, and Bitcoin is worth close to $20,000.
Its meteoric rise is due to a number of factors. First, Bitcoin became an icon, and people began buying it in droves – with others feeling as if they were missing out if they didn’t get on board with the Bitcoin trend. Many online retailers and e-commerce sites soon began embracing the popularity of Bitcoin for online payments. People have even sold their houses and cars in return for Bitcoin.
As a result, Bitcoin mining became a profitable enterprise. Giant Bitcoin farms were set up in Russia and China, and even mainstream investors began to get involved. Unfortunately, the incredible rise of Bitcoin attracted many hackers and thieves. Cryptocurrency exchanges were hacked, and millions of dollars worth of Bitcoins were stolen.
Cryptocurrency Mining Explained
Cryptocurrency mining is the process used to release new bitcoins onto the market. Bitcoins are ‘guarded’ by complex math puzzles and computer hardware is required to solve them. The more people try to mine Bitcoin, the harder these puzzles become. As a result, cryptocurrency mining has become far more difficult and expensive. Back in 2011, regular gaming laptops were able to mine Bitcoins, but nowadays, it requires powerful and expensive hardware.
Cryptocurrency mining is very profitable, and thousands of people worldwide have invested large sums of money into this new enterprise. The process is fully automated and just needs to be set up in advance, before stepping back and let the machines go to work. However, not every aspiring miner has the resources to set up a mining rig. Therefore, people have begun ‘cryptojacking’ to illicitly harvest Bitcoins.
What is Cryptojacking?
Cryptojacking is broadly defined as the illicit use of your computing device to mine Bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies. Cryptojacking victims are often unaware that their device is being used. Hackers just need to install cryptocurrency mining malware on your computer and it will begin to mine automatically. You may notice your computer slowing down significantly, but you won’t realize what’s going on. Once the cryptocurrency is mined, it is then funneled back to the hacker’s digital wallet, and the victim remains blissfully unaware that their computer was used for criminal activity.
As soon as we were alerted of the situation in this specific store last week, we took swift action to ensure our internet provider resolved the issue and made the changes needed in order to ensure our customers could use Wi-Fi in our store safely.
— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) December 11, 2017
Unfortunately, and even though this is a pretty extreme example, many public Wi-Fi networks across the globe have been hacked, and if you’ve ever connected to a public Wi-Fi network, there’s a slim chance that your device may well be mining cryptocurrencies as you read this!
How to Prevent Your Device From Being Hacked
Now we’ve had cryptojacking and cryptocurrency mining explained, you need to know how to defend yourself against this new threat.
First, you should quickly check to see if your device(s) have been targeted by web-criminals. To do this, open the resource manager on your device and check if your device performance is unusually high. If it is, try closing all browsers and programs. If it’s still abnormally high, you’re probably a victim of cryptojacking.
The simplest way to defend yourself is to install a verified browser extension. AdBlock for Chrome should protect your device from most surreptitious plugins and in-browser malware. More advanced solutions include NoCoin, AntiMiner, and Anti WebMiner. Before installing any plugins or add-ons, make sure they are legit and verified.
The Bottom Line
Unlike other forms of malware, cryptojacking doesn’t steal your payment information or identity. However, this does not make it any less of a threat. It can seriously damage your device, and overwork it so that it becomes practically unusable. Follow our suggested strategies to defend your device, and exercise caution when visiting unsafe websites.