Which is why it’s possible that hackers may be using malware or script to siphon power from your computer — power they desperately need to fuel their cryptocurrency mining business.
Whoa, let’s back up. What’s cryptocurrency and why would people rip off other people’s computer power to get it? Cryptocurrencies are virtual coins that have a real monetary value attached to them. Each crypto transaction is verified and added to the public ledger (also called a blockchain). The single public ledger can’t be changed without fulfilling certain conditions. These transactions are compiled by cryptocurrency miners who compete with one another by solving the complex mathematical equations attached to the exchange. Their reward for solving the equation is bitcoin, which in the crypto world can equal thousands of dollars.
Here’s the catch: To solve these complex equations and get to crypto gold, crypto miners need a lot more hardware power than the average user possesses. So, inserting malicious code into websites, apps, and ads — and hoping you click — allows malicious crypto miners to siphon power from other people’s computers without their consent.
While mining cryptocurrency can often be a harmless hobby when malware or site code is attached to drain unsuspecting users CPU power, it’s considered cryptojacking, and it’s becoming more common.
Are you feeling a bit vulnerable? You aren’t alone. According to the most recent McAfee Labs Threats Report, cryptojacking has grown more than 4,000% in the past year.
Have you been hit?
One sign that you’ve been affected is that your computer or smartphone may slow down or have more glitches than normal. Crypto mining code runs quietly in the background while you go about your everyday work or browsing and it can go undetected for a long time.
How to prevent cryptojacking
Be proactive. Your first line of defense against a malware attack is to use a comprehensive security solution on your family computers and to keep that software updated.
Cryptojacking Blocker. This new McAfee product zeroes in on the cryptojacking threat and helps prevent websites from mining for cryptocurrency (see graphic below). Cryptojacking Blocker is included in all McAfee suites that include McAfee WebAdvisor. Users can update their existing WebAdvisor software to get Cryptojacking Blocker or download WebAdvisor for free.
Discuss it with your family. Cryptojacking is a wild concept to explain or discuss at the dinner table, but kids need to fully understand the digital landscape and their responsibility in it. Discuss their role in helping to keep the family safe online and the motives of the bad guys who are always lurking in the background.
Smart clicks. One way illicit crypto miners get to your PC is through malicious links sent in legitimate-looking emails. Be aware of this scam (and many others) and think before you click on any links sent via email.
Install updates immediately. Be sure to keep all your system software up-to-date when alerted to do so. This will help close any security gaps that hackers can exploit.
Strong passwords. These little combinations are critical to your family’s digital safety and can’t be ignored. Create unique passwords for different accounts and be sure to change out those passwords periodically.
To stay on top of the latest consumer and security threats that could impact your family, be sure to listen to our podcast Hackable? And, like us on Facebook.