As if you didn’t already have enough to worry about, there’s this: Your computer may be mining for bitcoin without your permission or knowledge.
If this information makes you scratch your head and think how none of that makes sense, you are not alone. Research shows that instances where computers of random people are hijacked to mine for bitcoins without their permission or knowledge is on the upswing.
McAfee Labs released its annual Threats Report this week that crypto-currency mining is a new strategy for cyber-criminals. Here’s how this works: Bitcoins are ‘mined’ using super-computers that work to solve nearly impossible math equations.
This takes an enormous amount of processing power. Computers built to mine crypto-currency cost in excess of $5,000.
Rather than buying those computers cyber-criminals are hijacking the computers of random people to do the work for them.
Malware is put on a computer by tricking the user into clicking a link in an email or on a website. The malware allows the hacker to begin using any processing power the computer user isn’t using at that moment. If they leave their computer on when they go to bed at night for example, the computer can work through the night using all of its processing power to help the hacker mine for bitcoin.
The malware code is available on the Dark Web for $20-$30 and it’s easy for a hacker to run a program that installs it on a remote computer. It can even be installed on a computer sharing the same public Wi-Fi network.
Many websites have crypto-mining software on them that will use the extra resources of the computer that’s connecting to the site. One recent study showed 1 out of 50 websites contain crypto-mining code and it’s also been discovered in ads on YouTube videos.
It will likely go unnoticed but most of the time an infected computer will begin to run much slower. It may also run hot which will be noticeable due to the fans running longer or louder than normal. You would also likely see an increase in your electric bill since the computer will be working harder and running constantly.
What should you do? To prevent the malware attacking your computer take the same precautions as with any other malware threat. Don’t click on unsolicited links in an email or Facebook Messenger. Many times malware is transmitted from computer to computer through a video file attachment through Facebook Messenger.
If you’re not already using an anti-malware program you should do that sooner rather than later. McAfee, Trend Micro and Kaspersky advertise programs aimed at detecting crypto-mining malware.
And be aware, there are reports now that crypto-currency miners are using smartphones of random people to mine for bitcoins.