Cryptojacking is the unauthorized use of a computer, tablet, mobile phone, or connected home device by cybercriminals to mine for cryptocurrency.
What is cryptocurrency?
For those not familiar with this fairly new terminology, cryptocurrency is a form of digital currency that can be used in exchange for goods, services, and even real money. Users can “mine” it on their computer by using special programs to solve complex, encrypted math equations in order to gain a piece of the currency.
Bitcoin’s success inspired dozens of other cryptocurrencies that operate in more or less the same way. Less than a decade after its invention, people all over the world use cryptocurrencies to buy things, sell things, and make investments.
“Units of cryptocurrency (called “coins”) are nothing more than entries in a database.”
Units of cryptocurrency (called “coins”) are nothing more than entries in a database. In order to perform a transaction that alters the database, one must meet certain conditions. Think of how you track your own money in a bank account. Whenever you authorize transfers, withdrawals, or deposits, the bank’s database updates with your new transactions. Cryptocurrencies work in a similar way, but with a decentralized database.
Unlike traditional currencies, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin aren’t backed by a specific government or bank.
There is no government oversight or central regulator of cryptocurrency. It is decentralized and managed in multiple duplicate databases simultaneously across a network of millions of computers that belong to no one person or organization. What’s more, the cryptocurrency database functions as a digital ledger.
It uses encryption to control the creation of new coins and verify the transfer of funds. All the while, the cryptocurrency and its owners remain completely anonymous.
How do I protect myself from cryptojacking?
Whether you’ve been cryptojacked locally on your system, or through the browser, it can be difficult to manually detect the intrusion after the fact. Likewise, finding the origin of the high CPU usage can be difficult.
Processes might be hiding themselves or masking as something legitimate in order to hinder you from stopping the abuse. As a bonus to the cryptojackers, when your computer is running at maximum capacity, it will run ultra slow, and therefore be harder to troubleshoot. As with all other malware precautions, it’s much better to install security before you become a victim.
How to detect cryptojacking:
As with any other malware infection, there are some signs you may be able to notice on your own.
Symptoms of Cryptojacking:
1. High processor usage on your device.
2. Sluggish or unusually slow response times.
3. Overheating of your device.
How to prevent Cryptojacking:
A strong internet security software suite such as Norton Security or Mcafee LiveSafe can help block cryptojacking threats.
In addition to using security software and educating yourself on cryptojacking, you can also install ad-blocking or anti-cryptomining extensions on web browsers for an extra layer of protection. As always, be sure to remain wary of phishing emails, unknown attachments, and dubious links.