What is cryptojacking?


A specter is haunting the crypto world, the specter of cryptojacking. Crypto and the underlying blockchain technology have upended the world of finance forever. Sadly, cybercriminals, too, have kept pace with technological advancements. Ransomware and stealing data are passe. Cryptojacking is the single biggest threat facing the crypto ecosystem today. Let’s dig in.

Cryptojacking defined

Cryptojacking is a type of cyber attack in which a hacker takes over the processing power of a victim’s computer or mobile device to mine crypto. The hacker typically achieves this by injecting a malicious code, often in the form of a script or an app, into the victim’s device.

Once the code is executed, it makes use of the victim’s computational resources, such as the CPU or GPU, to mine crypto. The mined coins are then sent to the hacker’s wallet. The attack can happen through various means, such as infected websites, email attachments, and even through infected apps or software updates.

How does cryptojacking work?

Cryptojacking begins with the hacker installing malware on the user’s computer or embedding a mining script. The installed malware hijacks the computer’s processing power to solve complex mathematical equations. These equations are used to validate transactions on the blockchain and create new units of the crypto to be mined. The computer solves these equations and earns rewards.

The mining process, both legit and through hacking, requires significant processing power, leading to reduced computer performance due to higher energy consumption. As the hacking scripts or malware takes over the system, the hacker unethically mines the crypto using the victim’s computer. Consequently, the affected device slows down or overheats due to the extra resources consumed.

Types of cryptojacking

Cryptojacking falls into two main categories: One focuses on infecting the web browser, while the other uses host-based methods. Let’s understand the distinction better.

Browser cryptojacking

Browser-based cryptojacking occurs when a hacker embeds a mining script on a website the targeted user visits. The script uses the computing power of the user’s device to mine crypto without the user’s knowledge or consent. The website selected will have high traffic, such as a popular news site or a video streaming site. The script is executed when a user visits the site, and crypto mining begins.

This type of hacking can be difficult to detect because it does not require any software to be installed on the user’s device. It can also be hard to block because the mining script can be disguised as legitimate website content.

Host cryptojacking

In host-based cryptojacking or malware-based cryptojacking, a hacker infects a victim’s device with malware that is designed to mine crypto. This type of cryptojacking tricks the user into clicking on a malicious link or downloading a compromised app/application. Once the malware is installed on the device, it begins using the device’s computing power to mine crypto without the owner’s knowledge.

Host cryptojacking is damaging because it slows down the infected device and uses up a lot of resources, with the added danger that the malware can spread to other devices on the network. The malware can also steal sensitive information or cause other forms of damage.

How to detect cryptojacking

It is difficult to spot this kind of attack since it can blend with our phones and systems like a legitimate app or browser. Though cryptojacking can be hard to detect on browser-based attacks, certain clear signs should alert you that something is amiss.

High CPU or GPU usage: Cryptojacking malware uses a lot of a device’s resources to mine crypto. So, if your device’s CPU or GPU usage is unusually high, it should be a big heads-up.

Overheating: Cryptojacking can cause a device to overheat because of the high usage of resources. If your device is getting too hot or overheating more than usual, it could be a warning sign.

Poor performance: The attack can slow down a device’s performance because the malware uses a lot of the device’s resources. So, watch out for slower system performance, poor battery durability, and devices that run slowly, crash, or exhibit inferior performance.

High electricity costs: High electricity cost is another red signal. Mining cryptos requires high energy and processing power. If you observe a sudden hike in your electricity bills, a hacker may be on the prowl.

How to prevent cryptojacking

While cryptojacking may be new, some good old tools can come in handy to protect our systems and devices. We will discuss some of these time-tested ones.

Utilize an ad blocker and turn off JavaScript: Many cryptojacking attacks are executed through malicious ads, so using an ad blocker can preempt them. Besides, JavaScript should be disabled when accessing the internet.

Utilize a strong cybersecurity defense: Using robust anti-virus software will help detect and remove cryptojacking threats and other malware.

Keep your software up to date: Cryptojackers often target vulnerabilities in outdated software, so make sure to keep all your programs and operating systems up to date.

Be cautious when clicking on links or downloading files: The internet is full of malware, but most of them will only be activated if you click on the link or download something. So, tread carefully while surfing the internet.

Use browser extensions: Cryptojacking scripts are often deployed in web browsers because they are harder to detect. You can employ browser extensions, such as NoCoin and minerBlock, which can block crypto mining scripts in the web pages you visit.

Some real-life examples of cryptojacking

Cryptojacking emerged as a threat in 2017 and 2018, with several cases reported worldwide. Here are two such hacking incidents.

In 2019, the Microsoft Store removed eight apps that were secretly mining crypto. Users who downloaded and used one of the apps got JavaScript code for hacking without their knowledge.

Coinhive, a crypto mining service, was launched in 2017 to enable website owners to earn an income without running intrusive or annoying advertisements. However, Coinhive’s code appeared to be a malware threat that turned visitors’ processing power directly into cash.


What is cryptojacking?

Cryptojacking is a cyber attack in which a hacker takes over the processing power of a victim’s computer or mobile device to mine crypto. The hacker typically achieves this by deploying a malicious code into the victim’s device, often in the form of a script or an app.

What is cloud cryptojacking?

In cloud cryptojacking, bad actors access the APIs—a software intermediary that allows two applications to interoperate—that firms use and gain access to their cloud platform. This form of attack leads to excess consumption of resources and higher operational costs for firms.

How does cryptojacking affect your device?

Cryptojacking affects a device by using up its processing power and battery life, slowing down its performance, and damaging its hardware. Besides, the mining process generates significant heat, which can cause overheating and further damage the device.

What is the impact of cryptojacking?

Cryptojacking can have several negative impacts, both for individual victims and for society as a whole. It can affect the performance of devices, increase the cost of electricity, open up security vulnerabilities on infected machines, and risk leaking personal information. Since mining crypto requires a lot of energy, it also significantly impacts the environment.

How Can I Prevent Cryptojacking Attacks?

To prevent cryptojacking: 1. Use security software. 2. Keep software updated. 3. Employ ad-blockers. 4. Avoid suspicious sites. 5. Educate. 6. Monitor CPU usage. 7. Use browser extensions for protection.

How Do Cybercriminals Initiate Cryptojacking?

Cybercriminals initiate cryptojacking by injecting malicious code into websites or spreading infected software. When users visit or download, their devices unknowingly mine cryptocurrencies, benefiting the attacker.

What Are the Different Types of Cryptojacking?

Two cryptojacking types: browser-based (via websites) and file-based (hidden malware). Both secretly use victims’ devices for cryptocurrency mining, depleting resources without consent.

Is cryptojacking profitable?

Cryptojacking can be profitable for cybercriminals due to the large number of compromised devices. However, it’s becoming less lucrative as awareness and preventive measures increase.

What Are the Risks of Cryptojacking?

Cryptojacking risks: Slower performance, overheating, higher power bills, data breaches, and legal consequences as it uses victims’ devices without consent, impacting both users and organizations.

Disclaimer: Crypto products and NFTs are unregulated and can be highly risky. There may be no regulatory recourse for any loss from such transactions. The information provided in this post is not to be considered investment/financial advice from CoinSwitch. Any action taken upon the information shall be at the user’s risk.

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