With regard to malware, cryptocurrency mining, cryptomining, or cryptojacking is malware designed to use a device’s CPU resources to mine cryptocurrency without authorization.
What is Cryptomining?
Cryptomining, also known as cryptocurrency mining or digital currency mining, is the process of using computing power to solve complex math problems that are required for a blockchain network to function. The first blockchains were Bitcoin and Ethereum, which used proof-of-work algorithms. Since then, many other cryptocurrencies have been created with different technologies and rules, some use proof-of-stake instead of proof-of-work. As a result, each crypto coin now has its own unique set of features.
It is important to note that cryptomining malware or cryptojacking is malicious software designed to use a device’s CPU resources to mine cryptocurrency without authorization.
What is Cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrency is the underlying technical system upon which decentralized cryptocurrencies are based. It was created by the group or individual known as Satoshi Nakamoto. As of May 2021, there are over 1800 specifications for cryptocurrencies.
Satoshi Nakamoto's vision was to create a peer-to-peer electronic cash system that would allow people to send money directly to each other without going through banks or financial institutions. This would eliminate the need for intermediaries like credit card companies and banks. Satoshi's vision is considered an early form of distributed ledger technology.
Unlike centralized systems such as traditional banking, which require trust between parties who do not know one another well enough to establish mutual confidence. With decentralized networks, however, everyone can see what happens to every transaction. Decentralized ledgers provide transparency, so users don't have to worry about trusting others. They simply rely on cryptography to secure transactions and prevent fraud.
How Does the Cryptomining Process Work?
Cryptomining involves validating cryptocurrency transactions on a blockchain network and adding them to a distributed ledger. This involves using high-performance computers to solve mathematical equations called hashes and is designed to take advantage of certain properties inherent within cryptocurrencies. For example, Bitcoin uses SHA256D hash functions to generate cryptographic keys. Specialized hardware including ASICs and FPGA have been developed specifically for cryptominer tasks such as generating hashes at high speed and consuming minimal energy.
How do criminals use cryptomining?
Cryptojacking is a type of crime where a criminal secretly uses a victim’s computing power to generate cryptocurrency. This usually occurs when the victim unwittingly installs a program with malicious scripts which allow the criminal to access their computer or other Internet-connected device, for example by clicking on an unknown link in an e-mail or visiting an infected website.
Why is this a concern?
Cryptojacking might seem like a harmless crime, since the only thing ‘stolen’ is the power of the victim’s computer. But the use of computing power for this criminal purpose is done without the knowledge or consent of the victim, for the benefit of the criminal who is illicitly creating currency. As a large number of infected devices generates a huge amount of cryptocurrency, criminals see this as a lucrative crime.
The primary impact of cryptojacking is performance-related, though it can also increase costs for the individuals and businesses affected because coin mining uses high levels of electricity and computing power.
How do I know if I’m a victim of cryptojacking?
A noticeable slowdown in device performance
Overheating of batteries on devices
Devices shutting down due to lack of available processing power
Reduction in productivity of your device or router
Unexpected increases in electricity costs