What is Cryptojacking? Types, detection & prevention tips

What is Cryptojacking? Types, detection & prevention tips

What is Cryptojacking? Types, detection & prevention tips

Cryptojacking occurs when malware takes control of a victim’s computer and uses it to mine cryptocurrency. Typically this is a background process and the computer continues to function, even though it’s mining crypto. Cryptojacking malware isn’t designed to steal personal information or cryptocurrency from the infected computer. That’s not to say that cryptojacking is a victimless crime.

To mine as much crypto as possible, the cryptojacking software forces a computer to run at full capacity. Overclocking a computer in this manner can have several negative consequences.

  • Increased use of electricity
  • Running at high speeds can burn out the computer and cause the CPU to fail
  • If a computer is using most of its processing power to mine cryptocurrency, other processes may not operate correctly. A user may find that their computer is laggy and slow, since most of its resources are dedicated to mining crypto

Since cryptojacking malware is designed to run in the background the best way to determine if your computer is infected is to run an antivirus program. Also, pay attention to any unusual changes in the computer’s performance. For example, if a computer isn’t executing any complex programs but the fan is running at max speed, that could be a sign that cryptojacking software is running in the background.

    How does cryptojacking work?

    Hackers use several methods to infect a computer with cryptojacking software. One of the simplest methods is via email. Anyone who clicks on the link in the phishing email is taken to a website that contains cryptojacking software.

    Another popular method is to load cryptojacking software onto a computer via JavaScript code that’s running on a corrupted website. Finally, some cryptojacking programs have worming capabilities. They can spread to other devices on the same network.

    One of the more well-known examples of a cryptojacking attack happened in early 2018. Panda Security, a Spanish cybersecurity company, discovered the WannaMine script. WannaMine infected computers all over the world and forced them to mine the cryptocurrency Monero (XMR). Although the cryptojacking software didn’t steal personal data, Panda Security did warn that WannaMine was overclocking computers and causing them to fail prematurely.

    Are you a victim of cryptojacking?

    Cryptojacking software works on Mac and PC computers; no system is immune from the malware. The easiest way to avoid an infection is to use a good antivirus program. Most major antivirus programs are capable of detecting cryptojacking malware.

    Apart from an antivirus scan, a laggy computer is the number one sign that you could have a cryptojacking infection. Mining cryptocurrency is a computationally heavy process, and a cryptojacking program will typically use a majority of a computer’s processing power. If you notice that your computer is extremely slow for no reason, it could be time to check for cryptojacking malware.

    There’s also one final method of cryptojacking that doesn’t require someone to click a link or download any malicious files. Websites can host cryptojacking malware. When a person visits the website their computer will mine cryptocurrency as long as they stay on the page. In-browser cryptojacking isn’t especially prevalent, but it is an attack vector worth being aware of.

    How to protect your computer

    The simplest way to avoid cryptojacking malware is to look for any antivirus software that offers cryptojacking detection. It’s also important to regularly update the antivirus program, as well as your operating system.

    To protect your computer while you’re browsing the internet we recommend installing a cryptojacking security extension. Since different web browsers have different extensions, the easiest solution is to simply search for “crypto mining” or “block mining” in the browser extension store. The Opera web browser comes with built-in protection against cryptojacking. Some of the most popular ad-blocking extensions can also detect and disable cryptojacking malware.

    The Opera web browser can protect your device from cryptojacking - IMG Source 

    One final option is to block JavaScript from loading. While effective, this isn’t a particularly practical solution. Many websites use JavaScript and they might not function correctly without it. Blocking JavaScript works best if you’re planning on visiting a specific website with security concerns, and you want to be sure your computer doesn’t get infected with a virus.

    Cryptocurrency security: the full picture

    Although nobody wants their computer to get hijacked by crypto-mining malware, at the end of the day cryptojacking isn’t the worst thing that can happen. As long as you remove the malware before it does long-term damage to your CPU, cryptojacking is a relatively low threat. The real threat comes from a hacker compromising your computer and accessing your cryptocurrency or personal information. The best way to ensure that your crypto is safe is to:

    • Always write down your seed phrase by hand
    • Make all copies of the seed phrase by hand
    • Never store your seed phrase or private key as a digital file on your computer. If a hacker compromises your files he may find discover the seed phrase
    • Keep your crypto in a non-custodial wallet like Exodus or on a hardware wallet like a Trezor or Ledger
      For even more security advice, please check out this article on the Exodus blog: Top 4 security tips for crypto newbies.

    This content is for informational purposes only and is not investment advice. You should consult a qualified licensed advisor before engaging in any transaction.

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