Has your computer had strange performance problems lately? Is it running very slowly? Has the battery overheated? Did it mysteriously malfunction and then break down completely? You may be the victim of cryptojacking.
Symantec, Inc.’s recent Internet Security Report indicated that cryptojacking has increased by 8,500 percent in 2017. With high growth in crypto comes high growth in a cyber crime unimaginable just a few years ago. If you haven’t updated your computer security software lately, you might want to look into protection from cryptojacking.
What is cryptojacking?
Cyber criminals have been hard pressed to rip off people’s cryptocurrency. Though they have had some success hacking crypto exchanges, crypto tokens stored in digital wallets have remained highly secure. The decentralized nature of blockchain technology makes theft difficult because it eliminates a central point of attack. Hackers cannot cause a single point of failure.
Hackers have, however, discovered a way to steal unsuspecting people’s computing power in order to mine cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. Bitcoins, for example, are created through a process where computers solve extremely complex mathematical equations using algorithms. The people who use their computers to solve these equations are called miners. Miners are compensated for their efforts by receiving bitcoin. The amount of bitcoin they receive is based on the number of equations solved.
Why would they steal computing power? Because mining for cryptocurrency requires an enormous amount of computing power. This tremendous expense can make crypto mining cost prohibitive. Cyber criminals have figured out that they can steal the computing power for mining through a process that requires just a few lines of code. Their victims wind up footing the bill while the hackers take the profits.
Illegal Dark Web Activity Funded by Crypto
In addition to cryptojacking, cryptocurrency’s decentralized, anonymous nature also creates a system to fund black market activity. The dark web provides anonymity to people engaging in illegal purchases, but if they use traditional currencies, a money trail is created. These money trails can tip off investigators from entities like the FBI, IRS, Interpol, and others. Banking institutions are also required to report certain suspicious transactions.
Crypto provides the dark web equivalent for payment systems. Currently, no method exists for governments to monitor cryptocurrencies, making them the perfect vehicles for drug dealing, tax evasion, money laundering, and other illegal schemes. Though crypto technology may be novel and provide exciting possibilities for legitimate business purposes, at this point it remains dogged by illegal activities.
Crypto and the environment
Mining crypto takes tremendous computer power, which vastly increases demand on electricity grids. In fact, according to Digiconomist, the typical crypto transaction requires several thousand times the power of a noncash transaction using traditional currencies. Worse, a great deal of the crypto mining occurs in China, where electricity is powered by coal. At a time when China is intent on cleaning up the air in its major cities, the added demand of crypto mining is the last thing it needs.
Despite its challenges, crypto remains the hottest asset class. With its rise showing little prospect of slowing, citizens and governments alike will need to grapple with the side effects of cryptojacking, black market crypto payments, and the environmental damage of crypto mining.