20th February 2018

Is Your Device Mining Cryptocurrencies Secretly?

As interest in digital currencies is rising, cases related to theft and frauds in the Wild West of the financial world are also increasing. One of the most stupendous feats of hackers in the crypto sector is that they use unsuspecting users’ PCs and mobile devices to mine digital coins. They could be sitting miles away from you, on another part of the globe and secretly using your computing power to their advantage.

But why does somebody need my computer?

Cryptocurrencies are ‘mined’ by solving complex mathematical puzzles on a mining machine. To run these machines, they need special chips. Many miners also use the commonly available GPU chips (mostly used by gamers) to get enough computing power to mine digital coins. The process looks quite simple on the outside but mining hardware is quite expensive, and they consume excessive energy too.

Hackers have found a way to minimize these costs. They hack into your system and use its spare computing powers to generate digital coins. Your device’s graphics card is compromised in the process. Additionally, your device becomes very slow, and your electricity bill starts rising. Miners get digital coins, some of which are very highly priced and you are left with a damaged computer and sky-high bills.

Cryptojacking can be done via an app, a website, a plugin, a software or even a browser extension. As long as you use an app, website or extension, your computing power will be shared with the cryptojackers. For software downloads and apps, the case could be tricky. They reside on your device and can connect to the internet and mine coins. You could even have issues because of apps that run ads.

How to detect if my computer is compromised

If your PC or mobile has become unusually slow, especially after downloading an app or accessing a certain app/website, then you could be a victim of cryptojacking. You will also notice your device heating up more than usual and the power bill increasing. You must also open the Task Manager in your PC and check CPU usage. With average usage, the CPU usage remains somewhere around 20%. If it is going any higher, you are likely a victim of cryptojacking.

How to stay safe?

Keep your antivirus updated and ensure that your browser has ad blocking extensions. It will prevent you from falling prey to the malicious intents of these hackers. Adopting some basic internet security practices will be helpful for users. For example, never clicking on phishing emails or dubious links, never downloading software from unofficial sources and staying away from websites that don’t have an HTTPS domain.

Though it is practically impossible for an average user to prevent cryptojacking attacks, you must know that the lowest hanging fruits are always taken first. Basic security is better than no security. Creating a few walls between your system and the hackers could discourage them they usually look for an easy hunt.

Stay safe and keep monitoring your devices acutely to nip a problem in the bud.

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