What is cryptojacking? Almost 4 million computers fall victim in China
Cryptocurrencies are becoming increasingly accepted by governments and businesses of late, but the worrisome aspect of the so-called decentralised and transparent mode of transactions is the gigantic amount of computing power that is required for cryptomining. Cryptocurrency mining is the process where various digital currency transactions are verified and added to the open ledger online. Well, it’s a market economy, and everything has a price. This is where cryptojacking emerges.
What is cryptojacking?
Cryptojacking is the illegal and unauthorised use of an individual’s computer for cryptomining. Unlike traditional hacking where the miscreants’ aim is to steal information or load viruses on to someone’s computer, in cryptojacking, all that is needed is the computing power. The good news is – the cryptojackers are not interested in stealing the data, but the bad news is that it is difficult to detect if a system is hacked for cryptomining. The only possible hint is a lagged performance.
How Chinese gamers got played
Computer gamers love to use cheat codes to win games and cryptojackers found it to be a prospective opening to ambush their malware in the software that lets gamers to cheat.
China’s biggest gaming and social media company, Tencent, alerted the authorities of Shandong province in January when it detected the malware. A few days ago, the officials arrested 20 individuals for hacking 3.89 million personal computers since 2015, according to a report in South China Morning Post. The hackers are estimated to have netted over 15 million yuan (2.26 million US dollars).
The malicious plug-in unsuspectingly used the victim’s computers to mine virtual currencies like DigiByte, Decred and Siacoin.
Victims lured with fake subscriptions to video streaming platform
Yang, one of the suspects, allegedly sold fake subscriptions to a cloned version of iqiyi, a Chinese video streaming platform, at internet cafes and made 200,000 yuan. He also circulated the free downloadable plug-ins of the same on chat groups, according to the report. Yang, since October 2017, made a fortune of 8,551.9 Hshare, a digital currency whose worth was around 42 yuan per coin, the police said. He worked at the Dalian Shengping Network Technology.
Yang and his colleagues at the Dailian Shengping including the company’s owner were involved in the crime. They installed the malware in 3.89 million computers and mined 26 million units of DigiByte, Decred and Siacoin using one million servers.
How cryptojacking is done?
The hackers target ordinary people as they don’t frequently monitor their servers for glitches. They end up with higher electricity bills.
Leonhard Weese, president of Bitcoin Association Hong Kong, who advises on bitcoin, blockchain and information security, says if the mining is carried out cleverly by using only excess capacity, one wouldn’t realise it happening.
Image via Shutterstock
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