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In 2020, more businesses and individuals are conducting most, if not all, of their financial transactions online, including shopping and banking. Cryptocurrencies fit right into these digital transactions, acting as a virtual currency, which should be secure through cryptography.

As with all things progressive for society, criminals will find a way to engineer it to the dark side. As a result, we have the emergence of cryptojacking, the unauthorized use of computing power to mine these currencies.

What Is Cryptojacking?

Everyone has heard of Bitcoin, however, there are currently 3,000 other currencies available. Cryptojacking attacks allow cybercriminals to use the computing power of unsuspecting victims so they can mine cryptocurrencies. After hacking into both business and personal computers and other devices, a cryptojacker installs malware and malicious code then uses the device to run a cryptomining script in the background. Once mined, the currency ends up in the digital wallet of the cryptojacker.

Difficult to detect with minimal risk to hackers, cryptojacking allows cybercriminals to devise new ways to steal computer resources and mine for cryptocurrency.

How Cryptojacking Works

Being aware of the methods used can lead to early detection of cryptojacking on your computer.

Email Attack – The classic method is to install malicious code on your computer through an email attack. Emails will look as though they come from a company you recognize and may have interacted with, such as a banking institution, with a link. Criminals are counting on you to go to the link and download the cryptomining code.

Cryptojacking via Websites – Additionally, cybercriminals can run cryptomining code on your computer without your knowledge by writing a script and embedding it on websites. The script is embedded into ads and WordPress plugins that have not been recently updated. When you visit the compromised website and click on the ad or the plugin, the cryptojacking script starts to run in the background.

Cloud Cryptojacking – More and more businesses are using cloud platforms and services, making it the next target for cybercriminals making it possible to use huge amounts of computer resources, which result in a drastic cost increase that users cannot justify. To gain access, cybercriminals hack into your computer network and look through code and files for API keys with cloud access.

The Steps of Cryptojacking

After initiating with one or all of the above methods, Cryptojacking works quickly and silently in the background of your computer. “Threat actors,” or cryptojackers, use resources to solve complex mining calculations and algorithms to mine for blocks, adding these new blocks to the blockchain, which is the technology that runs the cryptocurrency industry. When cybercriminals add a new block to the chain, they receive cryptocurrency in their own digital wallet, with little or no risk of detection.

Detecting Cryptojacking Attacks

If undetected, a cryptojacking attack is damaging to both business and personal computers. It slows down performance and since more processing power is used, electricity costs will increase. Knowing how to detect Cryptojacking is vital since it can be difficult to detect once your network is compromised.  

Be aware of any decrease in computing performance – Cryptomining code can cause a drop in your computer’s performance, slowing down even basic functions. Be aware of devices that are running slowly or any lags in execution.

Be alert for overheating devices – Keep an eye out for overheating computers, laptops, and tablets. Cryptomining scripts use up a lot of computing resources, which can cause devices to work harder and overheat. This can lead to hardware failure and repairs, as well as, an increase in your IT budget.

Check for increased levels of CPU usage – Monitor your computer for any abnormal CPU (central processing unit) usage. If you notice that there is an increase in usage when you are visiting websites that do not have a lot of media content, it may be a sign that cryptojacking is happening. To monitor, use the Task Manager on your PC or Activity Monitor on Mac computers.

Check for coding changes on your websites – Monitor your own websites to check for any changes to files or webpages. Cryptojackers are looking for vulnerable websites where they can embed cryptomining code.

Scan regularly for malware – Make sure your security software is up to date and regularly scan for malware. Learning early that your system has been breached can help you plan quickly and stop cryptojacking.

Get the latest information on cryptojacking – Cybercriminals come up with new mining scripts and methods of infecting your computer. Stay abreast of the latest trends and threats by relying on reliable sources such as CryptoSlate and CoinDesk.

Five Ways to Prevent Cryptojacking

Use these preventative tips to protect your business and personal computing devices:

  1. Security training – Ensure that your IT team knows what cryptojacking is and how to detect it early. Be on the lookout for the different attack methods and know what to do when there is a threat.
  2. Educate your employees – As well as training your IT team, your employees need to be educated about proper security guidelines and regulations. Make sure they understand what cryptojacking is and how it can harm your entire network. When training, be clear about the risks of opening emails from unknown senders and clicking on links and attachments.
  3. Employ browser extensions – Many browsers include extensions that can stop cryptomining from happening. Browser extensions such as minerBlock and No Coin will monitor for any suspicious activity and block cryptojacking attacks.
  4. Install ad-blockers – Website ads are at risk and can be embedded with cryptomining scripts. Many ad-blockers can filter and block these scripts from running on computer browsers.
  5. Block JavaScript – Disabling JavaScript can also stop cryptomining script from running on your computing devices. You can disable within the browser, choosing to block it for an entire website or by page. It is important to remember that JavaScript is widely used for many of the features you need when browsing so disabling may limit the functionality of some websites.

Take it from your friends at the Blockchain Trust Group: protection from cryptojacking attacks begins with awareness, detection, and prevention. Rest assured the World Token Market takes these issues quite seriously and utilizes all best practices to insure the safety and security of all clients.