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It seems as though every time you turn on your device there is a new threat out there.  Today, however, it appears that your device could be at risk for something quite different from the typical threat– something that you may not even know is happening.  Cryptojacking is the term used to define the action of using the processing power of someone else’s device to mine for cryptocurrency.

If you have been on the internet anytime in the last year, you have more than likely heard about cryptocurrency – BitCoin, Ethereum, and LiteCoin, just to name a few.  In short, cryptocurrency can be defined as a decentralized digital (non-tangible) currency.  Mining for cryptocurrency is the process where one uses their CPU power to validate transactions on the cryptocurrency’s network in exchange for a small amount of the respective currency.  The more processing power someone has available to validate transactions, the more cryptocurrency that person will be rewarded with.

 

Mining cryptocurrency can be quite lucrative depending on how much processing power you can harness to validate transactions.  Typically, this is done by someone installing a program on their computer or purchasing hardware that is designed specifically for mining. However, some people and even some businesses prefer to use the processing power of someone else’s device for financial gain either in addition to, or separate from, their own.  This is where your device comes in to play.  Originally, to use the processing power of someone else’s device a program had to be installed and ran. However, to install a program the target would need to allow it to be installed, which can prove difficult. Through the advance of technology nowadays, a device simply needs to be on the internet, visit a website and allow a mining script to run as the website loads.

 

The mining script is written in a basic computer programming language called JavaScript.  JavaScript is one of the most common languages used in webpage design and, by default, does not need user permission to run.  This allows for someone to create a script and embed it into a webpage that, when loaded, will automatically run and begin using the viewing device’s processing power to mine cryptocurrency.  This script typically stops once the viewer leaves the website.

 

Luckily there are a few things that you can watch out for that may happen if your processor is being heavily used.  Cooling fans tend to become fairly audible when they increase in speed, which can be a sign that your processor is struggling to stay cool.  A cyberjacked computer may also seem to run slower – which can be noticed by slow response times with mouse clicks, erratic and delayed movement of the cursor, or a lengthy wait when opening or closing applications and files.  If you believe you may be on a website that has cyberjacked your PC you may also notice a visible spike in processor usage in the Task Manager.

 

Keeping a watchful eye when it comes to popups and agreements is very important in these regards.  Many of the companies that purposely have mining scripts embedded in their website have put them there as an alternative form of income, as opposed to income from the typical advertisements scattered around their pages.  In order to appear transparent, the business may have an agreement that pops-up asking you to agree to their use of your processor power in exchange for the removal of advertisements during your visit to their page. Be wary however, as some “agreements” can be vague or misleading, and if you have any doubts it may be best to find a different website for the purposes of your visit.

 

As of recently, the web browser Opera claims that its ad blocker is able to block cryptomining scripts.  Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome also claim to have extensions that block cryptomining scripts.  Some ad blockers have announced that their programs are able to detect and block mining scripts embedded in webpages and Microsoft, as well, has announced that its antivirus program, Windows Defender, can prevent cryptominers from entering corporate networks.  If you find yourself still in doubt, seek professional I.T. advice.

 

Until next time, safe and happy browsing!

 

Your friends at I.T. ISIN Solutions.