If you pay attention to the latest cybersecurity news, you may have heard that something called cryptojacking is quickly taking the hacker world by storm as the newest cyber threat, possibly becoming even more popular than ransomware.
So what on the earth is cryptojacking?
Cryptojacking is a method of hijacking computers to mine cryptocurrency without the victim’s knowledge or permission.
If you are not familiar with the world of cryptocurrencies, the act of mining simply means performing complex calculations to add them to the blockchain (Another term?! The blockchain is the distributed ledger of recorded transactions for the cryptocurrency). For instance, the popular Bitcoin cryptocurrency says that there will only ever be 21 million Bitcoins in existence but not all of them have been created yet. Bitcoin mining essentially is creating new Bitcoins and bringing them to light.
But back to cryptojacking…hackers are essentially stealing the processing power of victim’s computers to run the complex calculations to be awarded with new cryptocurrency. They do this by infecting website plugins and stealing your processing power while you visit legitimate websites, they do it while you are connected to the Wifi at your coffee shop, and they also get you through malware that steals your processing power all the time.
So why should I care about cryptocurrency mining malware?
More often than not, you may not even realize that you have been infected with cryptocurrency mining malware. You may experience a slow-down of your computers or lag while using the internet. The same goes with your mobile devices as cryptojacking has started exploiting the processing power of Android phones through malicious websites. There even was a nasty version of Android cryptojacking malware called Loapi that could cause the phone to use so much processing power that the phone would physically melt.
Other than melting your phone, there are other cases when cryptocurrency mining malware could cause real havoc. In a race to find more processing power, hackers have looked to utilities and have successfully infiltrated a water utility in the United Kingdom to mine cryptocurrency. If the cryptocurrency mining operation would have consumed enough processing power, it could have caused system failures and truly impacted the operations of the utility. Perhaps even more stunning is that a handful of scientists in Russia have been arrested when they attempted to connect a supercomputer at a nuclear facility to the internet so they could use the computer’s processor power to mine cryptocurrency.
How to prevent cryptojacking?
There are a couple of steps that you can take to prevent cryptocurrency malware infections.
- Install an anti-cryptocurrency browser extension like NoCoin or MinerBlock
- Use a pop-up/ad blocker (some even have cryptocurrency blocking built in)