Cryptojacking is unlike many of the more common forms of cyberattacks, in that it doesn’t steal your data or hold your network/device for ransom. Instead, cryptojacking commandeers your hardware to be used to mine cryptocurrency. Cryptomining is defined as the process of solving complicated problems to verify digital transactions, using computer hardware such as graphics cards. By using a cryptomining rig (or turning an unsuspecting user’s platform into one), users can both create or just get paid for their processing power in cryptocurrency.
Cryptocurrency’s popularity and value have been skyrocketing as of late, and while the market is volatile, the influx of cryptomining malware can be quite concerning. The cryptomining process is pretty simple and often does not require overly-priced items, such as with my Project: Cryptomining Rig. However, instead of using one’s own device to mine, “borrowing” another’s computer to do the job can yield great results.
Cryptojacking malware is created to specifically hide in a system and only be activated when the computer becomes idle, all while not even requiring access to your network or compromising your data. The longer the malware is in your computer, the better, as mining cryptocurrency is a lengthy process.
One of the most troublesome aspects of cryptojacking is the inability to detect it. For instance, if cryptojacking malware fails to show up in a virus or malware scan, one has to be on the lookout for other warning signs. Since cryptomining requires an immense amount of computing power, maxing out your hardware’s operating capacities often leads to overheating, reduced performance, and significantly shorter lifecycles.
Investing in robust anti-virus software, which includes anti-spam and anti-phishing filters for your email, is probably the single greatest tool in the fight against cryptojacking. Furthermore, a high-quality backup system (preferably cloud-based) would be of great help for those worst-case scenario moments.
As many cryptojacking scripts are sent through web ads, an ad blocker can be of assistance; some even have the power to detect cryptomining scripts.
By using performance monitoring tools, you will be able to see how hard your system is running at all times. For example, if you (or an employee), are not on your computer at night, however, see that at 3 AM the device in question is running at max potential, you might want to check that out. It is also crucial to understand that cryptojacking tools have the same weakness as other types of malware, such as requiring the user to open the door into their device.
Like all forms of malware and viruses, training yourself (and your staff) on proper internet etiquette will help defend everything when your technical solutions fail. Users should know how to spot a malicious email, such as keeping a close eye on any spelling mistakes, copyrights, logos, and downloadable links.
I use a large number of Chrome extensions; however, I carefully monitor and edit the settings for each one. Avoid downloading questionable extensions, delete those which you do not use, and update them regularly.
As the popularity of cryptocurrency shows no signs of slowing down, protecting your device (and those that you manage) is vital to ensuring your precious computing power is used for scrolling through Facebook, and not to mine cryptocurrency for someone with a username of ‘HaCkErDeWd.’