Criminals who want to own cryptocurrencies sometimes resort to the underhand means of freely mining digital assets using the resources of unsuspecting people. This process may be called cryptojacking.
In this method, cybercriminals stealthily use the computational resources of multiple victims to bypass the cost-intensive technique of digital asset mining. This article discusses in detail how cryptojacking works.
Cryptojacking — Explained
Cryptojacking occurs when a hacker gains illegal access to a person's computer, smartphone, tablet, or even server to mine cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Unlike other cyber attacks, a cryptojacking exploit is usually thoroughly hidden from the target as it embeds itself within the victim’s device.
Primarily, cybercriminals use other people’s devices for mining to evade the cost of installing expensive hardware and the consequent enormous electricity bills. Interestingly, the crypto coin Monero (XMR) appeals to cryptojackers more for the purpose than Bitcoin because the XMR blockchain allows transactions to take place privately and anonymously.
Although it is a common truth that blockchain technology allows some level of privacy, Bitcoin payments, for example, are trackable back to the originating source. The Monero network, on the other hand, uses sophisticated cryptography to conceal the identity of both senders and recipients.
How Does Cryptojacking Work?
Scammers hack into a victim’s device to install malware that runs underground, either mining cryptocurrencies or stealing from the person’s crypto wallets. They gain access to a person’s device by persuading the target to open a malicious link in an email or a private message that launches crypto-mining software in the background.
In both cases, the malware installs the cryptojacking script unnoticed on the victim's device. The infected device may experience performance lags while solving complex mathematical equations and transmitting the results to a server under the hacker's control.
In the early days of crypto mining, web owners monetized traffic by seeking a visitor’s permission to mine crypto with their devices while they remained on the site. It was a fair trade as visitors got free content while the web publisher used the guest’s device to mine.
In the fraudulent version, however, the exploiters seek no permission and continue the mining process long after the visitor leaves their site.
Implication of Cryptojacking
Usually, cryptojacking scripts do not harm a victim's data or computer since they merely steal the device's processing power. Performance lag may be a minor issue for some users. However, a business with multiple compromised systems would be confronting a large-scale cost compared to an individual.
Some costs include high electricity bills, poor overall business output, wasteful troubleshooting efforts, and more.
How to Detect Cryptojacking
Reduced performance is one of the main signs of cryptojacking. So, a system may be compromised when the person’s device runs slower than usual while experiencing intermittent crashing and quick battery drain.
Additionally, the working cryptojacking scripts can cause overheating, prompting a computer’s fan to run faster than expected. Furthermore, when visiting a website with little to no media content, a rise in CPU usage might indicate the presence of cryptojacking scripts. Checking a device's central processing unit (CPU) usage via an Activity Monitor or Task Manager is an excellent cryptojacking test.
Prevention Tips Against Cryptojacking Exploits
Some of the ways to prevent cryptojacking attacks include:
Using a suitable cybersecurity tool
Many brands are in the business of providing security software against cyber exploits such as Kaspersky, Imperva, and others. As a rule of thumb, one should install reliable security software to avoid becoming a victim.
Using Ad Blockers
Since hackers load cryptojacking scripts into web advertisements, using tools that block adverts generally is a wise option.
Following the Latest Cryptojacking Trends
Because cybercriminals constantly evolve their code and develop new delivery techniques, it pays to be alert to the latest cryptojacking trends.
Disable Java Script
Generally, the increased valuation of digital currencies incentivizes criminals to pull more advanced tricks on unsuspecting victims. People are encouraged to be alert to the latest trend in cyber exploits.
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