Have you felt that your computer is running slowly (or even crawling along) of late? You might well be subject to cryptomining—the latest cybercrime to surface. Media reports say that a number of websites, including the systems of government agencies in the U.S. and UK, are infected with crypto mining malware. Some enterprising hackers also took advantage of the surge in online viewing activity related to high-profile events (like the 2018 Winter Olympics) to great effect.

The latest rising cyber attack, Crypto Mining is a computationally intensive process wherein programs referred to as “miners” work to solve complex mathematical problems. The dedicated or affected computers in the mining network verify transaction records in a blockchain and receive digital coins in return.  The income is generated in the form of digital currency, such as Bitcoin, Monero, Ethereum etc. This mining process is very hardware intensive and eats up significant CPU resources in order to “create” or earn cryptocurrency.

“Cryptojacking,” as the crime is referred to, occurs when scamsters hack into your computer and utilize the system’s processing power to mine cryptocurrency which is then converted into cold, hard cash. When the inserted code is mining cryptocurrency on your device, it can slow down, use up your battery power, and in extreme cases crash or breakdown.

Here are a few things about Cryptomining you need to be aware of :

Cryptomining Malware Infection: Malicious crypto miners typically spreads in two ways – the first by way of malware, delivered via malicious email attachments or website links. The other approach is through third-party content providers linked to in high traffic websites. Prominent media and ad providers are routinely targeted due to their access to the large number of websites that reach millions.

This second method is more effective for the attacker. Users who visit such illicit sites, unknowingly “donate” their processing power to the attackers as long as they remain on the page. Such a method doesn’t require malware to be present on the user’s endpoint. While users are definitely impacted, they are not “infected” in the true sense.

How Power is drawn from your system: By way of utilizing crowd-sourced computing, attackers can easily scale up their mining efforts thus eliminating the need to acquire or own expensive hardware equipment. The more collective power and speed amassed, the bigger the digital gold they can pan and more the cryptocurrency payout.

Determining an infection: As detailed before, in most cases, you are unlikely to detect the presence of malware on your device. Since this type of attack can run without being physically present on the device, the only indication may be an apparent slowdown in overall performance.

Clearly, the onus of prevention should be on those who operate and maintain websites. But there are several precautions you can take to protect yourself.

  • Close sites or kill apps that slow your device down or drain the battery.
  • Always do your homework first before resorting to ad blockers and browser extensions that are meant to act against crypto jacking. Check trusted sources and read reviews before installing any such tool.
  • Update your software and apps regularly.
  • Never ever install software or apps you don’t know about, or click on unknown links, and be careful when visiting unfamiliar websites.

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