How to Protect Your PC From Cryptojacking

As technology advances, so does our dependence on it. And with COVID-19 encouraging more digital lifestyles, we’re now more reliant on tech than ever before.

However, as PC use increases, so does the sophistication of methods used to disguise hacking attempts. On average, a computer is breached every 39 seconds. Private consumers fall victim to identity theft, and commercial users experience the loss of sensitive data.

Even blockchain — one of the most secure technologies in the world — is affected. In fact, cryptocurrency-related hacks, known as cryptojacking, may not seem malicious on the surface, but it was listed by us as one of the most dangerous security threats of 2021.

Why you should take cryptojacking seriously

Cryptojacking involves someone else hacking into your computer and leeching your processing power for cryptomining, slowly killing your PC hardware. Hackers do this by covertly sending you code and tricking you into executing it on your computer.

This can be accomplished in a few ways. Phishing-like emails can look legitimate but contain links that execute cryptomining code once clicked, for instance. Code can also appear in internet ads without the site hosts knowing it. In fact, you wouldn’t even know you’d be cryptojacked, as the only visible symptom is a lag in computer performance.

That’s why, even if cryptojacking only emerged in 2017, it has become increasingly widespread. Coincidentally, Bitcoin, one of the most famous cryptocurrencies in the world, spiked in price towards the end of 2017. Today, a Bitcoin is mined every 10 seconds, generating almost $6 billion a year, and cryptojacking lets hackers cash in on that using someone else’s computer.

How to protect against cryptojacking

You might be wondering how exactly one should protect against a virtually invisible enemy. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from a cryptojacking attempt.

Be wary of suspicious websites

As many attempts originate via browser, common sense may actually be what protects you the majority of the time. Don’t visit sites with suspicious-looking URLs, or download anything in an unknown format. Immediately get rid of emails that have titles like “Claim Your Prize!” and get all your software from legitimate sources.

If you ever do stumble upon these suspicious websites, just close the tab you’ve been using, and block the URL to prevent future attacks. However, if the browser is already infected, try updating all your extensions and purging infected or unnecessary ones. Ad-blocking browser extensions like Ghostery can help bar Javascript-based cryptojacking attempts.

Check your computer’s activity levels

If you feel like your computer is slow even though you’re not doing much with it, it could be a sign of cryptojacking. Use Task Manager or Activity Monitor to see if your CPU activity is abnormally high. If it is, turn off your PC to kick the potential cryptojacker out of your device. In fact, it might be worth running your computer through antivirus software the next time you turn it on, just to double-check if the culprit is still lurking in your programs.

Don’t forget to keep all your software updated to make use of the latest security patches.

Do your research

Afterward, update your knowledge to protect against future attacks. For example, specialized sites like Coindesk can help keep you up-to-date on the latest cryptojacking news. This will let you know how hackers are constantly improving their methods and the appropriate countermeasures for them. You can also listen to cryptojacking and crypto podcasts on The Cyber Wire and Software Engineering Daily.

Cryptojackers may be difficult to detect but with caution and knowledge on the subject, it’s fairly easy to thwart their attacks.