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How to Avoid Becoming an Unconscious Cryptominer

  • Cybersecurity specialists from Panda Security share advice on how to protect your devices

Panda Security, a WatchGuard brand, is warning consumers about the dangers of becoming an “unconscious cryptominer”, in light of cybercriminals turning their attention to cryptojacking – the unauthorized use of someone else’s computer to mine cryptocurrency.

According to Watchguard Technologies Internet Security Report for Q4 2020, after almost all cryptocurrency prices crashed in early 2018, cryptominer infections became far less prevalent and reached a low of 633 unique variant detections in 2019.

That said, attackers continued to add cryptominer modules to existing botnet infections and extract passive income from victims, all while abusing their networks and carrying out additional cybercrime. As a result, and with cryptocurrency prices trending upward again in Q4 2020, the volume of cryptominer malware detections climbed more than 25% over 2019 levels, reaching 850 unique variants last year.

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How cryptojacking works

Cybercriminals have two main ways of accessing computers to secretly mine for cryptocurrencies:

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  1. Through phishing-like tactics where victims receive an email that encourages them to click on a link which will then loads the cryptomining code on to their computer.
  2. Cybercriminals add a script on a website or advert that automatically executes if the target visits the website or if an infected ad pops up on their browser. The code then runs complex mathematical problems on the victims’ computers and sends the results to a server that the hacker controls.

Cryptojacking malware is designed to remain hidden from users and does not target personal data, however the risk should not be underestimated: cryptojacking can lead to slowdowns and crashes due to straining of computer resources and it can also be costly and time consuming for IT help desks if a cryptojacker managed to infect a company owned laptop.

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Keeping your guard up

Hervé Lambert, Global Consumer Operations Manager at Panda Security, gives his top tips to avoid becoming an “unconscious cryptominer”:

  • Monitor your energy consumption: All operating systems have tools that monitor computer resource usage. With these programs you can analyze consumption over time and identify any peaks and periods of abnormal activity.
  • Patch Management: The majority of attacks and exploits take advantage of outdated systems and third-party applications, exploiting known vulnerabilities. Make sure your systems and apps operating on their latest version, even if they are set to automatically update.
  • Stay alert. Check the sender’s email address and recipient’s list carefully. If any of the content seems unusual or different then don’t provide personal or sensitive information to an unknown source
  • Install security measures: While internet security will not completely protect you from cybercriminals, installing measures such as antivirus software will make the job of the hackers much more difficult

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