The value of bitcoin has had its ups and downs since its inception in 2013, but its recent skyrocket in value has created renewed interest in this virtual currency. The rapid growth of this alternate currency has dominated headlines and ignited a cryptocurrency boom that has consumers everywhere wondering how to get a slice of the Bitcoin pie. For those who want to join the craze without trading traditional currencies like U.S. dollars (i.e., fiat currency), a process called “bitcoin mining” is an entry point. However, bitcoin mining poses a number of security risks that you need to know.
What Is Bitcoin Mining?
Mining for bitcoin is like mining for gold—you put in the work and you get your reward. But instead of back-breaking labor, you earn the currency with your time and computer processing power. Miners, as they are called, essentially maintain and secure Bitcoin’s decentralized accounting system.
Bitcoin transactions are recorded in a digital ledger called a blockchain. Bitcoin miners update the ledger by downloading a special piece of software that allows them to verify and collect new transactions. Then, they must solve a mathematical puzzle to secure access to add a block of transactions to the chain. In return, they earn bitcoins, as well as a transaction fee.
What Are Bitcoin Security Risks?
As the digital currency has matured, bitcoin mining has become more challenging. In the beginning, a bitcoin user could mine on their home computer and earn a good amount of the digital currency, but these days the math problems have become so complicated that it requires a lot of expensive computing power.
This is where the risks come in. Since miners need an increasing amount of computer power to earn bitcoin, some have started compromising public Wi-Fi networks so they can access users’ devices. One example of this security breach happened at a coffee shop in Buenos Aires, which was infected with malware that caused a 10-second delay when logging in to the cafe’s Wi-Fi network. The malware authors used this time delay to access the users’ laptops for mining.
In addition to public Wi-Fi networks, millions of websites are being compromised to access users’ devices for mining. When an attacker loads mining software onto devices without the owner’s permission, it’s called a cryptocurrency mining encounter or cryptojacking. It’s estimated that 50 out of every 100,000 devices have encountered a cryptocurrency miner.
Cryptojacking is a widespread problem and can slow down your device; though, that’s not the worst that can happen. Utility costs are also likely to go through the roof. A device that is cryptojacked could have 100 percent of its resources used for mining, causing the device to overheat, essentially destroying it.
What Are Some Bitcoin Privacy Tips?
Now that you know a little about mining and the bitcoin security risks associated with it, here are some tips to keep your devices safe as you monitor the cryptocurrency market:
- Avoid public Wi-Fi networks: These networks often aren’t secured, opening your device and information up to a number of threats.
- Use a VPN:If you’re away from your secure home or work network, consider using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN is a piece of software that gives you a secure connection to the Internet, so that third parties cannot intercept or read your data. A product like McAfee Safe Connect can help safeguard your online privacy no matter where you go.
- Secure your devices: New bitcoin threats, security concerns, and malware are emerging all of the time. Protect your devices and information with comprehensive security software