If 2017 was the year of ransomware, then this year has surely seen cryptojacking forcefully overtake its close criminal cousin.
If your computer gets hit by ransomware, your data files are encrypted and - unless you have a secure backup - your only way of getting them back is by paying your attacker with an anonymous cryptocurrency, and hoping they’ll respond with the key to unlock them.
Cryptojackers use a different technique. They don’t bother with the hassle of encrypting your files, displaying a scary ransom note, and walking you through the process of buying some Bitcoin or Monero cryptocurrency. Instead, they silently take over your computer’s processes, gobbling up CPU resources to mine for cryptocurrency at your expense.
Well, it would be silent if they’re not too greedy, and your computer’s fan doesn’t go into overdrive as it tries to cool your computer chips as it crunches numbers in its desire to mine for digital money. Meanwhile, your laptop’s battery is being hammered, your computer has become sluggish, and your data usage is sky rocketing.
But being spotted isn’t the only problem that cryptomining malware has to contend with. Such has been the growth of attackers cryptojacking innocent users’ PCs, web browsers, and servers that it’s not at all uncommon for cryptomining code to find that it is running alongside… other people’s cryptomining code. And that means the greedy miner isn’t getting as much of a share of your CPU as they would like.
As security researcher Xavier Mertens describes, a newly-encountered malicious miner for the Monero cryptocurrency is working hard to kill any potential competitors it encounters for system resources, using an ever-expanding list.
30 years may have passed since the advent of the computer virus problem, but there is still malware fighting malware for control of your PC.