FAQs: What businesses need to know about cryptojacking

Security experts noted a shift in the cyberthreat landscape during the first half of 2023. Cybercriminals are shifting to stealth, favoring quieter attacks like encrypted threats, Internet of Things (IoT) malware, and their current threat of choice, cryptojacking. The rise in cryptojacking numbers is dramatic: 332 million attacks recorded globally in the first half of 2023, which is an increase of 399% compared to last year.

But what is cryptojacking? And what threats does cryptojacking pose to your business? To understand cryptojacking, we first need to talk about cryptocurrency.

What is cryptocurrency?

Think of cryptocurrency as “digital” or “virtual” money. The best-known cryptocurrency is Bitcoin, though there are other types of digital coins and tokens. To ensure the operation and security of transactions, cryptocurrency uses cryptography, which you may think of as “fancy math.”

Operating any cryptocurrency requires a large amount of computing power and a significant amount of electrical energy to pull off all that “fancy math.” For example, to “create” or “mine” a bitcoin requires 1,449 kWh of electricity. If the average cost per kWh in the United States is nearly 12 cents, then mining a bitcoin would cost approximately $173. Anyone venturing into cryptocurrency will therefore need large amounts of energy and funds.

What is cryptojacking?

Here’s where the cryptojackers come in. These criminals want to reap the benefits of cryptocurrency without shouldering its enormous costs. So what do they do? They hack into other people’s computers and use their equipment to mine cryptocurrency without the owners’ knowledge or permission. So, in effect, they use other people’s electricity and computing power for free.

How do cryptojackers hack into your computer?

There are two ways for cryptojackers to use your computer without you knowing it:

  • Through infected websites or web ads – When you visit a website, it can auto-run a Java code in the background that uses your computer’s power to mine cryptocurrency.
  • Through malware – When you click on a malicious link in an email, it installs malware into your computer that mines cryptocurrency.

What happens to your computer when it’s been cryptojacked?

Cryptojacking can be a serious problem, especially if done on a large scale. If cryptojackers are able to tap your company’s computers, the following will happen:

  • Computers’ speeds will slow down.
  • Computers will run hot (because of heavy use).
  • Computers’ life spans will be shortened.
  • Your electricity bill will go up.

Can you detect if your computer has been cryptojacked?

Detecting cryptojacking can be tricky, but there are some signs you can look out for:

  • Overheating – If your computer’s fan is working harder and your device feels hotter than usual, something else is likely using your computer’s processing power.
  • Decreased performance – Does your computer run slower than it normally does? Does it crash more often than usual? Do you encounter that spinning wheel of death much too often, and does it spin longer than usual? Does your battery drain faster? These may all be signs of cryptojacking.
  • Increase in central processing unit (CPU) usage – An increase in CPU usage while you’re on an otherwise regular website that doesn’t have much media content may be a warning sign of cryptojacking. A quick check on your device’s CPU usage via the Activity Monitor or Task Manager can let you see if criminals are at play.

How can you protect yourself from cryptojacking?

Here are a few ways to defend yourself from cryptojackers:

  • Always update your software, especially your web browser.
  • Be careful with the websites you visit and the software you download.
  • Use a reputable antivirus and anti-malware program.
  • If you suspect your computer is infected with cryptojacking malware, scan it with the antivirus program.

When it comes to tech security, you can trust our certified IT experts at Interplay. We provide hands-on IT support to ensure that your systems are well guarded and well managed. Our comprehensive IT services can be customized to the needs of your Seattle-based business. Reach out to us today.