How To Detect Cryptojacking
How To Detect Cryptojacking
In the old days, crime was a lot simpler. Generally speaking, you could easily identify the criminals around you. They acted shadily, spent too much time looking at the things they wanted to steal, and might even have developed a criminal record or bad reputation that would serve as a warning for law-abiding citizens to keep their distance.
Today, however, crime is nothing like it used to be, especially in regards to cybercrime. Through the internet, hackers and cybercriminals can target anybody in the world. Targets who don’t have a secure device, practice safe browsing, or use their device on unsecured networks without a VPN to encrypt their traffic tend to be the easiest prey.
Now, hackers are focusing on stealing cryptocurrency, as it’s difficult to track, uses anonymous blockchain transactions, and can be used in virtually any country in the world. One of the most common tactics they use to illegally get crypto is through a method called “cryptojacking.”
In today’s post, we’ll explain what cryptojacking is, how dangerous it is, and how to know if you’re a victim. Then, we’ll show you how to scan for and remove any cryptojacking malware that may have been embedded on your computer.
It’s time to take your computer back!
What Is “Cryptojacking”?
So, let’s start with the basics… If you’re new to the whole concept, then you’re probably wondering what cryptojacking is, in the first place. Just based on the name, it sounds like it has something to do with stealing cryptocurrency. However, you can be a victim of cryptojacking without ever having purchased or used cryptocurrency before!
First, understand that all cryptocurrencies must be “mined” by computers. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have a limited supply of coins (similar to natural resources like gold), which must be extracted by computers that solve increasingly complex algorithms to be rewarded with coins.
The lower the supply gets, the more processing power is required to successfully mine tokens. In the early days of Bitcoin, you could mine several Bitcoins per day using an old-school Pentium chip. Today, Bitcoin-mining computers use top-of-the-line processors, water coolers, and insane amounts of memory.
So, back to cryptojacking… what exactly is it?
In a nutshell, cryptojacking is when hackers use your device without your knowledge to mine cryptocurrency for themselves. They’re able to do this by infecting your computer with malware.
Then, they use this malware to control your computer and run crypto-mining programs in the background. Whenever your computer earns crypto, though, you don’t reap the benefits; the mined coins are sent straight to an anonymous crypto wallet owned by the hackers.
Is Cryptojacking Dangerous?
Compared to other forms of malware, cryptojacking isn’t quite as dangerous. Most malware programs are designed to steal your personal data (such as social security numbers, account login credentials, etc.) stored on your computer.
Cryptojacking programs, on the other hand, are designed to operate secretly in the background of your computer. They use your computer’s processing power to mine for cryptocurrency with the goal of remaining undetected for as long as possible.
That being said, cryptojacking has the potential to be very dangerous for two reasons:
- Hackers have remote control over your device.
- Your computer is being pushed to the limit, which can cause physical damage.
For one, if hackers are able to remotely control your device for their illegal mining, then you had better believe that they have access to the rest of your device. Just because they aren’t actively searching for your private data doesn’t mean that they won’t decide to do so one day.
Secondly, the chances are that your computer wasn’t designed for mining crypto. As we mentioned, mining crypto is incredibly taxing on your computer’s processor and memory. Mining on a computer that wasn’t designed to handle the strains of crypto mining can significantly reduce the computer’s life and send it to an early grave.
How Are Devices Infected With Cryptojacking Malware?
Hackers can infect your device with cryptojackers by employing several different tactics. Usually, they target users who aren’t as tech-savvy and don’t know enough about computers to tell that their devices are being cryptojacked.
Often, hackers are able to run cryptojacking malware on infected computers for weeks or even months at a time before the computer dies or the user takes action to remove the malware. Here are the most common ways that computers are infected with cryptojacking software.
Phishing scams are just as prevalent today as they were when the internet first came out. They usually come in the form of emails or SMS messages that are designed to get you to visit third-party websites where you’ll either give out your personal information or download viruses on your computer.
Phishing messages are disguised as messages that come from seemingly legitimate sources. They often pose as your cell phone company, your internet provider, your bank, your credit card company, or even your doctor. They’ll send messages asking you to provide “verification” or offering you a “free gift” in exchange for filling out a form.
If you suspect that you’ve been sent a phishing message, the best thing you can do is to not interact with it.
If you’ve been torrenting files and downloading movies, programs, etc., from sites like The Pirate Bay, then there’s a good chance that your computer has already been compromised. While many of the torrent files you find online are legitimate, there are just as many that are infected with viruses and malware designed to give hackers a backdoor entrance into your computer.
The best ways to prevent this are to read the reviews/comments under a torrent to check if there are any comments referencing a virus. We also recommend using top-tier anti-malware software to scan downloaded files and that you use a VPN designed to provide internet privacy while torrenting.
Downloading Files From Unreputable Sites
Last but not least, if you’re downloading files from unreputable sites, there’s a good chance that they could come with a virus attached. Some of the top sites people get computer viruses from include:
- Wallpaper sites.
- Game download sites.
- Free movie and tv show downloading sites.
- Dating sites.
- Pornography sites.
Realistically, you should avoid downloading any files from sites that aren’t reputable or well known. The best way to protect yourself from sites like these is to use anti-virus software that features a browser extension designed to protect you as you browse the internet. Some VPNs (like Surfshark VPN, for example) feature browser plugins that scan websites for phishing and malware.
How To Detect Cryptojacking
So, now that you know a little bit more about what cryptojacking is and how it works, here are some telltale signs that your computer might be infected with cryptojacking malware.
- Your CPU Usage Increases Dramatically: If you notice that your processor is being used far more than it usually is, then this is a telltale sign that your computer has been infected with a virus program that’s demanding higher-than-normal CPU power.
- Your Battery Drains Faster Than Normal: If your battery suddenly starts dying faster than normal, it’s likely because a foreign program is taking up more of the computer’s resources and computing power. More than likely, this is caused by a virus.
- Your Device Overheats When It Shouldn’t: Whenever your CPU is being overclocked, it generates excessive heat and causes your device to overheat. This, in turn, can cause your entire computer to shut down and crash repeatedly.
- Your Computer Is Slower Than Normal: As the cryptojacking malware uses more and more of your computer’s limited processing power, there is less power reserved for other computer functions. This, in turn, can significantly slow down your device.
How To Remove Cryptojacking Malware
If your device is experiencing one or more of the symptoms listed above, then there’s a good chance that it’s been infected with cryptojacking malware or another form of computer virus. Here’s how you should proceed to remove the cryptojacking malware.
- Perform an Anti-Malware Scan: First, open your anti-malware software and perform a full scan of your device and all of its files. Often, you’ll need more than a 2-minute quick scan to identify any malicious files or programs.
- Look For Any Suspicious Files: While your anti-malware is performing its scan, you can be protective and perform your own scan and look for any suspicious files that may have been accidentally downloaded with or without your knowledge. Take note of strange files that don’t seem like they belong.
- Use Your Task Manager To Examine Background Programs: If you’re on a Windows device, you can press [ctrl + alt + delete] to open the task manager. This will allow you to view all of the programs running in your computer’s background. Specifically look for ones that are using large amounts of your computer’s processing power, as one of these will likely be the cryptojacking malware.
- Delete and Destroy The Cryptojacking Programs: By now, your anti-virus program should have finished completing its scan of your device and will have hopefully located the cryptojacking malware program. It will give you the option to delete and destroy the program for good, which you should definitely accept. Then, reboot your computer and double-check to make sure that the problems don’t persist.
- Alternative Option- Revert To A Backup: If the anti-virus software isn’t able to detect any cryptojacking malware on your device, then there’s another simple fix that may solve the problem. Revert your device to an older saved backup from the earliest date that you remember the device being problem-free. This may be able to restore your device to a time before the virus was installed.
Cryptojacking is a growing problem that’s come along with the rapid growth of international cryptocurrencies. The good news is that cryptojacking malware is fairly easy to detect due to the extreme strain that it puts on your device.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, then we recommend taking things seriously and doing everything you can to identify and destroy the virus before it does further damage.