Cryptocurrencies continue to make headlines, and generally for all the wrong reasons. As cryptocurrency continues to fluctuate in value, we are seeing a plethora of new cryptocurrency malware emerging. This is reflective of the evolution of modern malware, with variants attacking computer systems globally, hijacking them to mine cryptocurrencies and capitalizing on the victim’s resources. Crypto-malware is literally making money.

It is no surprise that crypto-malware has been proliferating, as digital currencies provide a level of anonymity and are rather profitable. It is, however, probably the worst of all malware. This new age of crypto-jacking malware simply uses the end user’s device to mine cryptocurrency when they visit an infected site.

More websites are adopting cryptocurrency mining through visitors instead of running ads to fund their businesses. Recently, the popular torrent site The Pirate Bay ran a bitcoin-miner as an alternative to ads to generate funds for the business. This new income-generating scheme caused users’ central processing units (CPUs) and electricity usages to skyrocket while degrading the performance of their device. Coincidentally, advertising revenue is dropping significantly.

Mining 101

If you have not heard of bitcoin, then you must be living under a rock. Undoubtedly the most famous cryptocurrency, it is generated by “mining.” By mining, I mean a computationally intensive task that utilizes a lot of energy and processing power for verifying transactions. Successful miners are rewarded with a “coin,” which is added to a digital wallet — or, in the case of crypto jacking, to the digital wallet belonging to the hackers. For the first time, malware can directly “print money” for criminals.

On its own, a personal computer would not be powerful enough to profitably mine cryptocurrencies — the operative word being “profitably.” Mining done properly requires specialized rigs composed of specialized hardware and lots of electricity. Note that there are different cryptocurrency algorithms, some of which are more intense and require more computing power than others.

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