There’s been some talk about this on social media for a while, I also reported about it in my weekly podcast a few times too, well now it’s time to elaborate on it.
So, what is it?
It’s a term that describes an act of hijacking someone else’s CPU to mine cryptocurrencies. Ever since the first reports started circulating about The Pirate Bay doing it, Cryptojacking has become a “thing” in the past 6 months and the trend is spreading out.
A number of apps started appearing in 2017 making it easier than ever to mine crypto with phones, tablets or laptops. Coinhive seems to be the tool that came out first and gave birth to the trend but since then we saw a great deal of phone apps or Chrome extensions popping up and the trend keeps growing. The extensions will soon be banned according to Google. The key issue here is the lack of transparency and the intrusive manner this is being executed upon.
In its nature, Cryptojacking is profitable and is on its way to becoming a popular trick for blogs and websites to generate revenue, some use it as an alternative to the old-school ads (banners, pop-ups and in-between) which are way too spammy, messy and in effect, not very profitable compared to results reported from crypto mining.
I call it a trend because a few video streaming sites and the abovementioned file sharing network The Pirate Bay have allegedly been “cryptojacking” their users’ computers in this way, as has the free WiFi provider in a Starbucks cafe in Argentina. Users may object to this, especially when it slows down their computers. The Pirate Bay claims they only tested the option briefly, but that was enough to inspire many others to follow suit. Only a few weeks later, Pirate Bay has also turned on the mining again. Thier team previously said that they were testing the miner to see if it can replace ads. While there is some real revenue potential, for now, it’s running in addition to the regular banners. It’s unclear whether the current mining period is another test or if it will run permanently from now on but given how hard it is for most companies to make money from online advertising, this might be something we have to get used to….(I hope not).
How does it work?
You load the page, and the “in-browser mining code” just runs. No need to install, and no need to opt-in.
Currently (Mar 2018), in-browser mining is mostly used to mine Monero. This is why we are seeing a lot of reports about random hacks on people’s computers (some businesses too) where Monero is being mined. Just last month a shop window in London was hacked for this purpose. Another curious case was a nuclear power plant in Russia earlier this year (2018).
It’s common for the code to run on the website without the user noticing it.
Users who have been hit by cryptojackers often complain of a slower internet connection and slower processing speeds.
It can also drain a computer’s battery much faster than normal.
What can I do to keep safe?
If you want to prevent your computer from being cryptojacked you need a software tool which checks the code as it runs such as an ad-blocker.
Currently there are a number of Chrome extensions that are available. Check out “No Coin” – seems to be the most popular one. Also you might want to add a standard Ad blocker too, just to enhance your experience. Not only it blocks trackers and annoying banners but also it removes those super-annoying YouTube ads and save those 3 seconds every time… ah bliss.
Also, you can switch to using Opera or Epic browser instead of Safari or whatever else you have there by default (you can always transport all your bookmarks so no need to feel attached to the old, just saying). These are coming with an a coin blocker function now.
To find out if your current browser is vulnerable, you can run a check at https://cryptojackingtest.com. They are pushing the Opera Browser there but you don’t have to feel obliged to use that one, here’s my Chrome browser result after I added No-Coin extension.
Good luck with this and hopefully this post helped you. If yes, be good and share it with your friends or at least those of them who may need it.