A crypto mining malware uses your laptop, computer, smartphone or any other connected device to mine for cryptocurrencies.
It uses your CPU and hardware to perform mining, leading to an overuse of the hardware resources. In worst cases, the overuse can lead to increased energy consumption and permanent damage to the device or machine.
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are mined by solving complex math puzzles. This requires a considerable amount of computing power. The puzzles are solved quickly as more and more mining power is used to work on them. Once a puzzle is solved, cryptocurrency coins are rewarded to the miner.
The more mining power that is available, the more quickly these equations are solved and cryptocurrency coins are earned by the miners.
Although mining is a legitimate activity, many hackers use sophisticated malware to mine for coins. They gain illegal access to the computers or devices of other people and then use their computational power to perform mining.
How does it work?
The use of crypto mining malware is also known as cryptojacking. In this attack, the malware is installed on your device or machine using infected websites or software. Once the malware is installed, it quietly runs in the background making use of the processor and other resources.
Any coins that are earned through this method are sent directly to the anonymous wallet of the hacker.
In cryptojacking, a hacker doesn’t need to interact with any other users. The hacker also doesn’t need to know the identity, income bracket, credit card number or any other details of his victims. Instead, the hacker simply needs to access the devices and machines, and then harness their mining power.
Many hackers are drawn to cryptojacking because of the ease, anonymity and simplicity of operation it offers. In many cases, the mining malware runs quietly in the background for a long time.
Malware authors write it so that it doesn’t draw too much attention. This allows hackers to use the mining power of jacked computers and devices over an extended period. In many cases, many months or years pass before the user actually realizes that his machine or device has malware.
How to detect crypto mining malware?
The good news is that you can detect crypto malware and then take measures to get rid of it. Here are some quick and sure ways of detecting crypto mining malware on your device or machine.
Scan for Malware
Mining malware is pretty much the same as a regular malware – and it uses the same vulnerabilities to gain access to your machine or device. The easiest way to detect such malware is by running a scan using a quality anti-virus or anti-malware tool.
Monitor Network Traffic
Detecting a mining malware is as simple as looking at the protocol of the network traffic. If you look deep enough, you will see specific patterns that reveal that the network is being used for illegal mining or cryptojacking.
Network monitoring is especially effective if you have more than one device or machine at hand. By keeping an eye on the network traffic, you can easily identify the presence of crypto mining malware and take steps to remove it.
Check CPU Usage
The more intensive crypto malware jack up your CPU usage to 100% which is immediately noticeable. Look for telltale signs like the machine making a lot of noise and increased energy consumption rates.
More recently, crypto malware authors have become smarter. So they instruct the malware to use only so much processing power as to not raise any suspicions. Such malware is harder to detect, although you can still identify it with some extra effort.
If you suspect that your machine or device has been cryptojacked, monitor and analyze the resources such as CPU usage and network activity. If you are witnessing a high CPU use without any CPU-intensive apps apparently running, this means something is wrong. In such a case, use an anti-malware tool to run a quick scan.
Ways to prevent crypto mining malware
Prevention is better than cure, as the old saying goes. The previous section details how you can identify and remove a mining malware once it is in your machine or device. However, a better strategy is to prevent such malware from infecting your device in the first place. Here are some handy tips on how to save your smartphone, computer or any other device from a mining malware.
Use VPN on a Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi’s are notorious for being highly insecure. When you use public Wi-Fi, your online session is prone to a man-in-the-middle attack. A hacker can read your data, steal your credentials and even distribute malware through an unsecured public Wi-Fi network.
A quick and easy way to avoid this is by using a VPN. You can protect your smartphone or laptop with a quality VPN when using public Wi-Fi. A number of great VPNs reviewed by VPNpro.com are available that can shield you from man-in-the-middle attacks and effectively prevent hackers from installing a crypto malware on your device or machine.
Avoid Suspicious Websites
Hackers often use websites as mules to carry and distribute malware. This is particularly true of websites that are less-known. An alarmingly huge number of obscure websites related to cryptocurrencies exist today and navigating to them can put your device at risk.
Use an in-browser anti-malware tool to counter this threat. Avoid shady websites in the first place. If you have reached a site and feel like something is downloading in the background, close it immediately. Navigate smartly and try to stick to the most well-known and reputable sites.
Use an Anti-Malware Tool
A comprehensive Security Suite or anti-virus is a great way of protecting your device or computer. Such a solution typically comes with anti-malware capabilities, URL scanning, network monitoring and other abilities. With the full range of these security features, you greatly reduce the odds of a crypto malware reaching your device.
Cryptojacking malware is one of the most notable cybersecurity threats today. The malware is more dangerous for being highly secretive and more damaging to your device or machine. This is why it is important to prevent, identify and countermining malware at the earliest stages.
That being said, mining malware is like just about any other malware and it uses the same exploits to access your device. So if you are prepared and protected against malware threats, you are already a step ahead of the cryptojackers.
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