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What Is Cryptojacking and How Does It Work? Your Guide to Understanding This Cyber Threat

Cryptojacking has rapidly emerged as one of the top cybersecurity menaces we face in the digital age. But what exactly is cryptojacking and how concerned should we be about this scheme to hijack computing power for profit?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll demystify cryptojacking, explain how it works, provide tips for detecting infections, and offer best practices for keeping our devices secure. Arm yourself with knowledge and take action to defend against this threat!

Cryptojacking’s Meteoric Rise as a Cyber Threat

Let’s begin by framing the scope of the cryptojacking problem. According to cybersecurity experts, cryptojacking attacks increased by a whopping 459% in 2021 alone. Researchers also found that the global cost of cryptojacking could exceed $2.9 billion in 2025, up from just $311 million in 2018.

ENISA, the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity, now ranks cryptojacking as the third most common cyber threat facing consumers and businesses. Here are some other eye-opening cryptojacking stats:

  • Cryptojacking detections grew from 400,000 worldwide in 2017 to over 2.9 million in 2021.
  • 55% of businesses surveyed reported being impacted by cryptojacking in 2021.
  • Cryptojacking threats in the cloud rose by 1,500% between 2020 and 2021.

| Year | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021
|-|-|-|-|-|
| Cryptojacking Detections | 400,000 | 1.7 million | 1.9 million | 2.5 million | 2.9 million

Table: Increase in Global Cryptojacking Detections

Cryptojacking’s meteoric rise shows no signs of slowing down. As cryptocurrency prices continue to fluctuate and spike, cybercriminals have a big incentive to hijack computing power to mine coins. Now let’s examine exactly how they carry out these schemes.

Cryptomining Primer

To understand cryptojacking, we need to start with a quick overview of cryptomining. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum rely on cryptomining. This is the process where miners use specialized hardware and software to solve complex math problems that validate transactions on the blockchain.

When miners successfully decrypt a transaction and add a new block to the chain, they are rewarded with crypto coins for their effort. But cryptomining requires enormous amounts of processing power, electricity, and investment in equipment.

That’s why cryptojacking presents an appealing opportunity for hackers. By stealing the computing resources of regular internet users, cryptojackers can generate cryptocurrencies like Monero without any of the overhead costs.

Next we’ll explain the techniques hackers use to implant cryptojacking malware and siphon away computing power.

The Cryptojacking Playbook

Cryptojacking is a form of cyberattack where hackers illicitly install cryptocurrency mining malware on a victim’s device. The malware then uses the infected computer’s processing power to mine cryptocoins which are funneled back to the attacker.

Cybercriminals employ a range of methods to infiltrate devices and servers:

Browser-Based Cryptojacking

This technique relies on compromised web pages injected with mining scripts that activate when visitors go to the site. Or hackers can buy ads on legitimate sites and insert cryptojacking code that utilizes your browser to mine when you view the page.

Host-Based Cryptojacking

This involves more targeted social engineering attacks, like phishing emails with infected links or attachments containing cryptojacking malware. Fake updates or downloads can also trick users into inadvertently installing mining malware on their devices.

Cloud Cryptojacking

The most sophisticated method, this requires hackers penetrating cloud computing infrastructure, often by stealing login credentials through phishing. Once inside, they can infect connected servers and leverage the massive combined processing power.

Hackers are constantly honing their cryptojacking tactics to catch users off guard. Now let’s go over the red flags that may indicate your computer has been compromised.

Spotting the Signs of a Cryptojacking Infection

The underhanded nature of cryptojacking makes it tough to detect, but with vigilance, we can recognize the symptoms:

  • Device Performance Issues – Sluggishness, freezes, crashes, and slow loading all indicate high CPU usage.
  • Overheating – Fans whirring non-stop to cool down overtaxed components may signal cryptojacking malware.
  • Higher Electric Bills – Spikes in power consumption showsomething is guzzling extra electricity.
  • Network Disruptions – Some cryptojackers throttle bandwidth which manifests as lag, buffering, and disconnects.
  • Battery Drain – Cryptojacking can rapidly deplete phone/laptop batteries due to resource strain.
  • Storage Shortages – Malware and mining data fills up hard drive space unexpectedly.

Seeing any of these issues, especially in combination, should raise a red flag. Run antimalware scans to check for infections. Browser extensions that allow cryptojacking are another indicator to look for. Proactively monitoring your CPU and resource usage can also catch abnormalities before performance suffers.

Protecting Yourself from Cryptojacking

Now that we understand how cryptojacking works and what to watch out for, let’s discuss best practices to lock down devices:

  • Keep Software Updated – Patching and upgrading programs eliminates vulnerabilities that malware exploits. Don‘t ignore update notifications!
  • Use Antivirus Tools – Protect devices with programs that proactively detect and halt cryptojacking malware.
  • Think Before Clicking – Avoid downloading from questionable sites or opening random email attachments and links.
  • Install Ad and Script Blockers – Browser extensions can prevent cryptojacking from loading on websites.
  • Monitor Usage – Keep an eye out for any spikes in CPU load or electricity costs.
  • Use a VPN – Encrypt traffic and mask IP address to make targeting more difficult.
  • Limit Browser Plugins – Disable unused plugins and extensions to reduce potential cyberattack surface.

Taking a multi-layered approach to security hardens devices against cryptojacking. Now let‘s answer some common questions.

Cryptojacking FAQs

What does cryptojacking do to computers?

Cryptojacking secretly hijacks computing power and system resources to mine cryptocurrency without a user‘s permission or knowledge. While it generally does not damage hardware, it can impair system performance.

How do you spot cryptojacking malware?

Look for indicators like an overtaxed CPU, device overheating, slow performance, abnormal bandwidth usage, frequent crashes, reduced battery life, and spikes in electricity costs. Confirm infections with malware scans.

How prevalent is cryptojacking?

Cryptojacking grew over 600% from 2018 to 2021, establishing itself as one of the top 3 cyberthreats facing consumers and businesses today according to cybersecurity authorities.

Key Takeaways to Protect Yourself

Cryptojacking presents serious risks to our security and privacy as hackers constantly seek new ways to co-opt computing power for financial gain. While cryptojacking software is difficult to detect, we can safeguard devices by following cybersecurity best practices.

The most valuable defenses include maintaining comprehensive anti-malware tools, scrutinizing unsolicited communications, monitoring system performance for abnormalities, and staying vigilant about applying software updates.

Spreading awareness about the rise of cryptojacking also helps users identify risks and symptoms early on. Remember that our collective security is only as strong as the weakest link. Following these tips will help protect you against cryptojacking and ensure your computers work for you, not cybercriminals.

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Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.