Crytocurrencies such as Bitcoin should be familiar to you, but do you know cryptomining? Most importantly, do you realize how it has opened the doors to cryptojacking? If not, this article will provide a surprising overview.
In a world increasingly greedy for crypto coins, cryptomining is the apex of resource exploitation. It is also arguably the most annoying computer threat ever created, since rather than interfering with your machines for the sake of disruption alone, cryptomining fiends just borrow some of your computing resources – often so discretely that you may fail to notice.
Depending on how it’s performed, cryptomining can range from a legitimate tool used by content publishers to monetize their traffic to a critical usurpation of your computing resources made by rogue hackers.
To understand exactly what cryptojacking is, you first have to realize the implications of the blockchain technology that underlies all cryptocurrences.
A blockchain is simply a method of transaction verification aimed at securing all deals made using crypto currencies. This method involves having a huge network of computers acting as nodes; any user is welcome to join this network to add processing power that will hasten the processing of the incredibly complex mathematical equations involved.
There is a notably valuable perk available to those who contribute to this process: nodes are randomly rewarded with crypto coins when they happen to strike gold by deciphering the equations; this is where the “mining” concept comes from. Since this happens randomly, the whole process is akin to a lottery draw: those who have more nodes added to the blockchain increase their odds of earning compensation.
Just a few years ago, enterprising crypto currency miners would turn massive profits by investing in dedicated computer networks comprising dozens or even hundreds of high-end computers with powerful GPUs; doing so, they would scale their mining operations by amassing the most combined processing power possible. Over time however, as the complexity of the equations grew, this approach became unprofitable since the costs of hardware and electricity eventually became higher than the average rewards.
Around this time, the craftiest miners came up with an innovative approach: they started looking for ways to borrow processing power from unwitting computers connected to the Internet. Rather than buying thousands of computers of their own, hackers started looking into ways to borrow a little processing power from billions of computers available on-line. Not only does this approach potentially allow perpetrators to benefit from virtually unlimited processing power, it effectively dismisses all electricity costs – since the bill is fractioned between the combined cryptojacking victims.
This, in a nutshell, is cryptojacking; should you be worried about this rather creative new threat? Not too much… unless of course, if you feel some of your computers have been drastically underperforming for no apparent reason.
While cryptojacking can indeed potentially harm a computing device by overheating its components over a long time, that is not likely to happen. What is indeed likely is that computers having their resources unknowingly “borrowed” will underperform in proportion to the amount of processing power being diverted. The effects of the usurpation can thus range from being barely noticeable to annoying to outright aggravating.
Luckily, software developers have taken notice of this opportunity, and you now have programs available to block cryptomining attacks on your computers. If you’re concerned about being a victim of this rather irritating threat, consider using browser plugins such as miner Block and NoCoin, or dedicated software.
Do keep in mind the malice of this practice hinges on its sneaky execution, not its potential harms. As such, many big content publishers are now looking to soft, user-consented cryptojacking as a possible new way to monetize their traffic.
Think of it this way: rather than having to see ads whenever you visit a website to help support the publisher, in the future you may be invited to instead allow the website owners to use a small fraction of your computer’s resources in the background to mine for revenues, while you’re happily browsing the content you like.
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