What is Cryptojacking and should you be worried?

You may have seen or heard about Cryptojacking over the past few months and it being identified as an emerging threat this year. What is Cryptojacking and should you be worried about it?

Here at Dave’s Computers in New Jersey, we like to keep up to date with threats like these. It helps us help you and allows us time to develop strategies for protecting against it and for recovering data afterwards should you lose it. That’s the case with Cryptojacking. It doesn’t delete data but it does take over your computer.

What is Cryptojacking?

Cryptojacking is the hijacking of a computer to mine cryptocurrency for criminals. Just like malware can turn your computer into a data miner, spam relay or other nefarious use, this malware makes your computer work for someone else’s gain.

Cryptocurrency is earned by allowing your computer to perform complex calculations to help currencies like Bitcoin maintain a ledger. In return for your help, you are rewarded with a portion of cryptocurrency. Performing these calculations is called mining and it takes many, many hours to earn even a single Bitcoin or other digital currency.

Enterprising criminals developed a way to sidestep all the effort. Instead of using their own computers and electricity, they designed malware that gets your computer to do it for them. This is cryptojacking. The malware includes everything required to mine cryptocurrency and sets your computer to work mining on behalf of the criminals.

How is cryptojacking malware delivered?

The most common cryptojacking malware is delivered via browser infection. This means it can infect Windows, Mac and in theory, Linux computers too. A website can be infected with this malware that will run when you have the window open. Some websites can have infected ads or code embedded to download the code to your computer too but these are less common.

Some popular, legit websites have been infected in the past including the LA Times website and the TV network Showtime. It isn’t just pirate websites or lower quality ones that are susceptible.

How can you tell if you have been cryptojacked?

There are some easy ways to identify if you have been subject to cryptojacking. Your processor runs constantly at high utilization, your computer fans run at full speed when they shouldn’t to keep the system cool, your computer does not seem as fast as usual or you see unusual browser activity or processor utilization with certain websites open.

Usually, if your computer seems to be working harder than it should be with no good reason, it is time to check it out. Open Task Manager or close your browser to see if things calm down. If they do, re-open your browser to see if it starts up again.

How to protect yourself from cryptojacking?

Use good internet hygiene and you should avoid the majority of cryptojacking attempts. That includes not going to the darker places on the internet, not clicking on random links on a page or through email and being aware of where you are and where you are going online.

Here are some practical things you can do to protect from cryptojacking:

  1. If you’re following a link, hover over it first to see if it matches. If it doesn’t use a URL shortener like Bit.ly, be careful about following it.
  2. Run a malware and antivirus scan regularly and perform periodic data backups to prevent data loss.
  3. Run your browser in a sandbox if you can.
  4. Use an ad blocker or use host file blocking.
  5. Be aware of exactly what you are downloading if you download anything. Run an antivirus scan before opening anything you do download.

Cryptojacking is increasing and is set to become the biggest online threat in 2019. Use these common sense tips to prevent your own computer earning money from criminals. Be safe out there!

If you need help with IT security or anything to do with computers, visit Dave’s Computers in New Jersey. We are here to help!