If you’re sick and tired of the buzz around cryptocurrencies, mining, and ICOs, you are far from alone. Chances are we read the same news and listen to similar conversations of super tech-savvy colleagues in the office. That’s why we’re somewhat fed up with all things crypto, too.
Nonetheless, it is clear that denying the importance of the crypto age in 2018 is not much smarter than denying gravitation. It is here, it affects our lives, and it doesn’t seem to go away anytime soon.
That’s why there are some crypto-related things you’d better know about. Yes, even if you still pay for coffee in dollars and imagine an actual farm with sheep and cows when someone mentions “bitcoin mining farms.” Trust us, there are things you’d better be aware of.
Cryptojacking is one of them.
What is Cryptojacking and Why Should You Care?
As Hackerbit has so beautifully put it, “cryptojacking is a secret use of your computing device to mine cryptocurrency.”
Yes, you got it right. This means you can help hackers build their crypto empires without even realizing it. That’s what the crime in 2018 looks like.
Chances are good you want to understand how it is possible and find out if there’s a way to put a stop to this crypto-outrage.
Luckily, you made it to the right article. Our goal here is to explain how cryptojacking works (in plain English) and show you how and why you should fight back.
Cryptocurrency Mining Explained
Discussing the topic of cryptojacking is impossible without explaining the concept of mining itself. So what is cryptocurrency mining?
Simply put, cryptocurrency mining includes two functions—adding new transactions to the blockchain (that invisible ecosystem where all things crypto are happening) and releasing new currency. In order to mine, a person needs a computer and a special program to compete with other miners in solving math problems (that’s how new blocks are added to a blockchain and how digital currencies are born).
To prevent cryptocurrencies from devaluation, those math problems have been made harder to solve, intentionally. To solve the above-mentioned problems, the processing power of computers (a.k.a. CPU) is necessary. The better the capacity of devices that a miner uses, the more profit can be gained.
Initially, only cryptography pioneers were involved. Over time, however, the process of mining has transformed into another form of business.
Here’s what we know now: cryptocurrency mining is profitable; mining requires computing power to be executed.
And this is where cryptojacking enters the scene. Since profitability of cryptomining depends on the capacity of devices a miner uses, it is just natural for miners to seek more capacity. Where do they find it? Surprisingly, on your computer.
How Do You Help Crypto-Hackers Thrive?
Any computer has some processing power hackers can use for their cryptomining purposes. The procedure is simple: you visit a website infected with a script, and the moment you do this a part of your computer’s power capacity is lost to miners.
For hackers, the only problem with this approach used to be that mining stops the moment you leave the website. This is no longer a problem, though.
There is a new cryptocurrency hacking technique that allows for in-browser cryptomining to continue even after you have closed the tab of an infected website. A pop-under window hiding behind the taskbar is to blame. Once it is opened, it remains so until you take very specific actions to close it.
How Big Is the Problem?
If it doesn’t sound realistic to you, consider the multiple cases of cryptojacking taking place on websites we all use. The target of miners varies greatly: from government websites to the official page of football and American soccer stars.
According to data from Global Threat Impact Index, there are a few different variations of cryptomining malware out there. However, Coinhive tops the list. Back in 2017, Coinhive released a script designed to activate the mining of cryptocurrency Monero as soon as a certain web page is loaded.
What’s even more alarming is that the problem is quickly scaling up, from individual to corporate. It is expected that nearly one in five companies fall victims to cryptojacking these days.
Is In-Browser Cryptomining Even Legal?
Putting the ethical aspect aside (it is obviously not right to take advantage of people’s devices without their knowledge), it makes sense to consider the situation from a legal standpoint.
The short answer is: mining itself is legal. Taking advantage of internet user’s CPU without them knowing it happens is not. In this regard, in-browser mining as we know it today is not much different from any other form of cyber crime.
Now it is time for some good news.
Protect Yourself from Cryptojacking with a Good Ad Blocker
You can protect yourself from falling a victim to in-browser mining. All you need to do is install a high-quality ad blocker capable of blocking crypto-mining scripts on websites. Not only will you be able to sleep tight knowing your computer is not making someone coins, but you will also forget about intrusive ads.
Cryptomining Technology Might Get Rid of Ads Online
Turns out, in-browser mining can be a good thing. There is some hope that sooner or later mining will replace online advertising as the main way to cover operating costs of websites.
In fact, this is what Coinhive developed its script for. A code allowing for in-browser mining was meant to offer an alternative website monetization, but then the script came to hands of hackers and things went down the drain. Some hope for this all to come true is still there.
The Final Wrap-up
A few things are clear. First, the crypto-hype is not likely to subside for quite a while. Second, new variants of mining will most certainly occur. Third, as long as there are no obligations requiring miners and websites to inform you that your CPU’s being used, the best approach for you to follow is to block in-browser mining with an ad blocker.