Cryptojacking – definition, operation, protection

You may have heard about cryptojacking. Or maybe you haven’t, but you have noticed that your computer or another device has become slower or noisier lately. Either way this article will tell you about cryptojacking and help you protect your device from it.

  1. What is cryptojacking?
  2. How does cryptojacking operate?
  3. How do you protect from cryptojacking?

What is cryptojacking?

Cryptojacking is an illegal activity connected to using a device for mining cryptocurrency without the device owner’s consent. In the past several years such activity was said to raise up to 25% of all malware attacks. The reason for this is the cryptocurrency mining boom and general growth of cryptocurrencies’ popularity. As you probably know, building a mining farm and even cloud mining are quite expensive. Hackers and malicious miners have discovered several ways to save their money and resourced by using the power of other people’s computers, smartphones, tablets and other devices for their own good.

Unlike regular computer viruses, spy programs and ransomware, cryptojacking does not intent to steal your passwords, credit card details or block your device to demand a payment for unblocking. Instead they steal your computing power, processor memory and electricity to mine their own cryptocoins with it. Most often the mined coins are those with high levels and anonymity such as Monero or Zcash because they are harder to track.

Though cryptojacking does not harm you directly, it is slowing your computer, shortens its lifetime and increases your electricity bills.

How does cryptojacking operate?

Cryptojacking malware is designed to be as stealthy as possible. It doesn’t show you pop-ups or delete your files. In most cases you can only notice that something is wring when your device starts repeatedly slowing down while its cooling system starts working harder than usual.

The algorithms of infecting your device with the cryptojacking malware is similar to most other infection algorithms. There are two common ways to do it:

  • Trick you into downloading an infected file to your device. This can be an email from an African prince who desperately needs exactly your help and sends you a picture of his poor family or a message from your friend’s hacked account containing an infected file. Once the malware reaches your device it installs itself automatically and starts working.
  • Lure you into a website that runs a special script. The script starts running and using the resources of your device to mine cryptocurrency. Nothing gets installed on your device, but the mining process will carry on as long as the malicious website or a pop-up window remains opened in your browser.

How do you protect from cryptojacking?

There are several things you can do to protect yourself from cryptojacking:

  • Install a reliable ad-blocking or anti-mining extension for your browser. Most browsers have relevant extensions available in their app stores.
  • Install an antivirus and a firewall and keep them updated. Most device and internet security software companies constantly add means of protection from cryptojacking into their products.
  • Avoid installing unknown software and browser extensions. Download software from reliable sources only and accept files only from people you trust. Always check the browser extension’s rating before installing.
  • Notice the changes in your device’s performance and CPU activity. Pay attention to the normal processing time and heating level of your device to be able to react quickly when it suddenly changes for no obvious reason.

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