Cryptocurrencies have been in circulation for almost a decade, with the first unregulated cryptocurrency (Bitcoin) created in 2009. The online based currency remained largely under the radar for your average computer user, but 2017 changed the cryptocurrency landscape. The prices of various cryptocurrencies began to soar; garnering massive media attention and bringing with it a swathe of new investors.

Hijacking computers to mine cryptocurrencies is not a new phenomenon, however it’s likely to become more widespread now that they’re gaining value. More people want in on the cryptocurrency game and not everybody plays by the rules. 

What is ‘mining’ exactly?

Mining bitcoin using conventional computers has become too power intensive, however there are crypto currencies out there, such as Monero, that can still be mined using PC’s. If your machine is running abnormally slowly, you could be infected with mining malware. To check, open up a resource monitor on your PC. On a MAC it’s Activity Monitor, and on Windows it’s task Manager. If you see spikes in CPU usage when visiting websites that shouldn’t really be taxing; or if everything is closed and your CPU usage is still really high, then you could have a problem.

There are many ways that infection can occur. Hackers in Argentina recently exploited an unsecure WiFi connection in a local Starbucks and manipulated computers to mine for them. Users logging into the WiFi would experience a 10 second delay in connecting so it could mine cryptocurrencies.

Noah Dinkin, CEO of Stensul, found the hack and tweeted Starbucks to inform them.

Starbucks then responded some time later.

Summer of 2017 also saw North Korean hackers taking control of South Korean server and using it to mine 70 Monero coins – worth roughly $25,000 as of December 29th. Some groups have even developed Google Chrome extensions with the purpose of mining cryptocurrencies, under the guise of legitimate software. Archive Poster, a tool that allowed users to reblog, queue, draft and like blog posts, was hijacking the processing power of computers (as many as 105,000) to stealthily mine cryptocurrencies. The extension has since been removed from the app store.

TheMoneyTaker hacking collective were recently found to have made millions from infiltrating conventional banking systems. Could cryptocurrencies be the new big target in the future?