Cryptojacking: A Hidden Threat to Your Devices and Data

coin, silver, gold, bitcoin, cryptocurrency, what is cryptojacking? Investment scams, Ponzi schemes, Pyramid schemes

Cryptojacking is a type of cyberattack in which a hacker co-opts a target’s computing power to illicitly mine cryptocurrency on the hacker’s behalf. It can target individual consumers, massive institutions, and even industrial control systems. The motivation behind a cryptojacking attack is simple: money.

Mining cryptocurrencies can be very lucrative, but making a profit is challenging without the means to cover large costs. Cryptojacking is the criminal manifestation of cryptomining and offers an illegitimate yet effective and inexpensive way to mine valuable coins.

Unlike ransomware or phishing, cryptojacking does not directly harm the victims or steal their data. But according to Interpol, it can cause significant performance issues and increased energy consumption, while illicitly creating currency.

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How does cryptojacking work?

Cryptojacking, as the name suggests, is a type of cybercrime where malicious actors covertly hijack a victim’s computing power to mine cryptocurrencies without their knowledge or consent. This illicit operation unfolds when individuals unwittingly install software or programs embedded with malicious scripts.

These scripts allow cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access to the victim’s device, usually through deceptive means like clicking on malicious links in emails or visiting compromised websites.

Once access is secured, the cybercriminals deploy specialized software known as ‘coin miners’ to create or ‘mine’ cryptocurrencies. The victims are usually unaware of the activity, as the mining process runs in the background or in hidden browser tabs.

Unlike traditional forms of theft, cryptojacking focuses on stealing computational resources rather than tangible assets.

Some of the cryptocurrencies that have been mined through cryptojacking include Ethereum (ETH), Ravencoin (RVN), Ethereum Classic (ETC), and Ergo (ERG)The most commonly mined cryptocurrency is Monero.

Why is monero a popular choice for cryptojacking ?

Monero is a cryptocurrency that uses a blockchain with privacy-enhancing technologies to obfuscate transactions to achieve anonymity and fungibility. Observers cannot decipher addresses trading Monero, transaction amounts, address balances, or transaction histories. Monero is characterized as a more anonymous or privacy-oriented digital cash.

It’s is a popular choice for cryptojacking because it is designed to be private and untraceable. It is one of the few cryptocurrencies that supports in-browser miningMonero is considered more of a privacy token and allows cyber criminals greater freedom from some of the tracking tools and mechanisms that the bitcoin blockchain offers.

Graphics of Monero mining, Monero is the most popular for cryptojacking

What are the risks of cryptojacking?

At first glance, cryptojacking may appear relatively benign, as it doesn’t directly pilfer personal data or financial information. However, its implications are far-reaching and troublesome for several reasons:

  • Reduced device performance and functionality: Cryptojacking can slow down devices, cause crashes, freezes, or glitches, and interfere with other applications or processes.
  • Increased energy costs and environmental impact: Cryptojacking can consume a lot of electricity, especially if it affects multiple devices or runs for a long time. This can result in higher energy bills and carbon footprint for the victims.
  • Exposure to other cyberthreats: Cryptojacking can compromise the security of devices and networks, making them more vulnerable to other attacks such as data breaches, malware infections, or denial-of-service attacks.
  • Legal and ethical issues: Cryptojacking can violate the privacy and consent of the victims, as well as the terms and conditions of some online platforms or services. It can also raise questions about the ownership and taxation of the mined cryptocurrency.

Some famous examples of cryptojacking

  • The Coinhive script that was used to mine Monero on thousands of websites, including some popular ones like The Pirate Bay, Showtime, and CBS’s Showtime Anytime.
  • The WannaMine malware that exploited a Windows vulnerability to infect computers and mine Monero without users’ knowledge.
  • The Smominru botnet that infected over half a million computers and generated millions of dollars worth of Monero.

Recognizing Cryptojacking Indicators

Cryptojacking is a stealthy and growing threat that can affect anyone who uses a device connected to the internet. By being aware of the risks and taking preventive measures, users can protect their devices and data from this malicious activity.

Detecting cryptojacking can be challenging, as it operates silently in the background. However, certain signs may indicate that your device has fallen victim to this digital menace:

  • Sluggish Performance: If your device experiences a noticeable slowdown in performance, particularly when running resource-intensive tasks, it could be a red flag.
  • Overheating and Battery Drain: Devices infected with cryptojacking malware often exhibit overheating issues and rapid battery drain due to increased resource utilization.
  • Unexpected Shutdowns: Lack of available processing power may lead to unexpected device shutdowns or crashes.
  • Reduced Productivity: Devices used for cryptojacking may exhibit reduced productivity as their resources are diverted to mining operations.
  • Surging Electricity Bills: A sudden spike in your electricity costs without any apparent reason could be a consequence of cryptojacking.

How to prevent cryptojacking?

Cryptojacking can be hard to detect, as it often does not show any obvious signs or symptoms. However, there are some steps that individuals and organizations can take to prevent cryptojacking, such as:

  • Installing and updating antivirus software and firewalls on all devices
  • Avoiding clicking on suspicious links or attachments in emails or messages
  • Blocking or disabling JavaScript or pop-ups on browsers
  • Using ad blockers or anti-cryptojacking extensions on browsers
  • Monitoring device performance and energy usage for any anomalies
  • Checking browser task manager for any unknown or excessive processes
  • Reporting any suspicious activity or incidents to relevant authorities

How can I remove cryptojacking malware from my device?

If you suspect that your device has been infected with cryptojacking malware, you should take immediate action to remove it. Some steps that you can follow are:

  • Disconnect your device from the internet and any other networks
  • Run a full scan with your antivirus software and delete any detected malware
  • Restore your device to a previous clean state using a backup or system restore point
  • Change your passwords and enable two-factor authentication for your online accounts
  • Update your device’s operating system and applications with the latest security patches

Final Thoughts

Cryptojacking is a stealthy and growing threat that can affect anyone who uses a device connected to the internet. By being aware of the risks and taking preventive measures, users can protect their devices and data from this malicious activity.

FAQs on Cryptojacking

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