Since 2013, companies have had one main thing on their minds when it came to IT security – ransomware – an exploitative attack that’s cost thousands of users countless hours and billions of dollars from which to recover.
In 2017, when the world was first hit by the famous WannaCry ransomware, users were required to send bitcoin to their attackers in order to unlock files. But after 200,000 computers were infected and only about $50,000 dollars was transferred, attackers have begun to rely on “cryptojacking” to cut the human element out of the process and have computers generate the money, all without us knowing.
What Is Cryptojacking?
Cryptojacking occurs when a computer is unknowingly manipulated to mine cryptocurrency that is then sent to the attacker. Using a complex algorithm, miners can be anyone who wants to use their own computer to process the algorithm. For their trouble, they’re given a percentage of the transaction.
Because of the nature of cryptojacking, most users may not even realize they’re infected with the malware, though two easy ways to tell are quick battery drainage and slower than usual performance. Even if the cryptojacking malware is discovered, however, it’s usually just removed and forgotten since no files were locked or money taken, as would be the case with ransomware. This is why there’s a much smaller chance of cryptojacking criminals being tracked down.
A computers CPU utilization after visiting a malicious cryptojacking website.
How Widespread Is Cryptojacking?
Cryptojacking is relatively new, but the attackers profiting from the malware are not. Most were previously ransomware bandits but switched because of the higher profit potential and diminished risk. According to Symantec, incidents of cryptojacking rose 8,500 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017 and 34,000 overall for the year. A majority of the infected websites were breached and had the malicious code inserted to the homepage. Frighteningly enough, there’s a good chance you’ve mined cryptocurrency for an attacker at one point or another.
Install add-blockers and anti-cryptomining extensions to your web browsers
These free extensions will alert you and stop the utilization of your computer to mine cryptocurrencies.
Scan with antivirus programs regularly
Most antivirus programs are now able to detect if your computer contains malware that is cryptojacking.
Keep an eye on the performance of your computer
If you notice a sudden drop of battery life or performance, close your browser tabs. If that resolves the issue, you may have inadvertently visited a cryptojacking website. If the issue is not resolved, you may have malware installed on your computer.
Created by the browser Opera, this website will analyze your browser’s performance and let you know if it’s being affected by cryptojacking.