Hackers are targeting innocent people’s computers and stealing processing power without their knowledge in order to mine cryptocurrency.
The process is known as cryptojacking and illegally harnesses the power of thousands of computers.
Criminals use the background power of computers and convert it into Monero, a virtual currency similar to Bitcoin which is easier to cash out.
Scientists have now discovered the scam has generated an astonishing £44 million ($57 million) worldwide since 2007.
Guillermo Suarez-Tangil at King’s College London and Sergio Pastrana at Madrid’s Carlos III University studied how the successful the process was.
Their research, published on the pre-publish site ArXiv, looked at how more than 4.4 million pieces of malware were used in cryptojacking.
One particularly efficient ground of cryptocriminals earned $18 million since June 2016.
More than half (58 per cent) of the illegally-obtained cryptocurrency came from 10 campaigns.
Cryptojacking does not steal or take anything from the computers it uses as the cryptocurrency was never technically owned by them.
It is however a form of fraud and a criminal act.
Alan Woodward at the University of Surrey told New Scientist that there is a growing concern that as mining cryptocurrency becomes more difficult and needs more computing power it could move away from generic internet users and cryptojacking could become a more significant issue.
For example, moving from home PCs to computers that run larger pieces of infrastructure such as nuclear power stations.
There are a variety of ways in which the hackers implant the necessry code on a person’s computer.
It can include installing cryptojacking code onto websites which runs in the background of their browser when they access the site.
McAffee, the online security experts, have released a feature called WebAdvisor which protects against cryptojacking.
‘As the threat landscape continues to evolve in both speed and sophistication, we understand that people can feel overwhelmed by navigating the online security space,’ said Terry Hicks, executive vice president, consumer business, McAfee.
‘That’s why we are creating solutions that more than half a billion and growing customers can easily use to address real world digital security challenges.
‘From securing the gaming experience to safeguarding the connected home to protecting against cryptojacking, we’re enabling our customers to protect what matters to them by delivering the peace of mind needed to connect with confidence.’
WHAT IS CYRPTOJACKING AND HOW CAN YOU TELL IF YOUR DEVICE HAS FALLEN VICTIM?
Cryptojacking involves the secret use of your computer, smartphone or tablet to mine for cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin.
Mining is the process of helping verify and process transactions in a given virtual currency.
In exchange miners are now and then rewarded with some of the currency themselves.
Legitimate mining operations link thousands of processors together to increase the computing power available to earn cryptocurrencies.
It requires considerable investments and generates huge electricity bills, but hackers have found cheaper options.
Hackers have even found ways to inject the scripts into websites like Politifact.com and Showtime, mining money for themselves off of another site’s traffic.
It’s common for the code to run on the website without the user noticing it.
Users who have been hit by cryptojackers often complain of a slower internet connection and slower processing speeds.
It can also drain a computer’s battery much faster than normal.
If you want to prevent your computer from being cryptojacked you need a software tool which checks the code as it runs such as an ad-blocker.
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