Hackers are using you to make money - here’s how to avoid it

by Kelly McNeil on November 10, 2017 in

An Important TechBldrs Cybersecurity Update

Bitcoin has been called “the currency of the future,” but could hackers be using it to slow and damage your systems? Learn what bitcoin is, how it’s earned, how malware associated with it is spreading, and how to protect yourself using important cybersecurity knowledge.

You may have heard of bitcoin before, but what it is and how it works- and how it can be used maliciously- might not be something that’s familiar to you.

As of November of 2017, a single bitcoin is worth almost $8,000. But back in March of 2010 when bitcoin began trading, one bitcoin was worth $0.003. The first real-world transaction of bitcoin was for an order of two pizzas, something that, at the time, cost 10,000 bitcoins. In 2017, that would be like buying around $78,300,000 worth of pizza. That’s an incredible value expansion- and lot of pizza.

It’s easy to see, then, why there’s a great deal of global interest in bitcoin. What makes bitcoin so attractive is a technology called Blockchain that provides a completely authenticated and verifiable ledger that allows each transaction to be foolproof and anonymous (it is this anonymity that attracts hackers). Foolproof enough that major financial institutions like banks, insurance companies, and investment houses are now using bitcoin.

Now here’s where it gets a bit technical- and here’s how hackers are exploiting that to earn money and possibly compromise your systems.

In order for an average person to buy bitcoin, you have to exchange currency (like USD or Euros) for cryptocurrency. But if you’re more tech savvy, you can build server farms with lots of computing horsepower that verify the math of the bitcoin ledger. When the server farm completes the verification, you are rewarded with one bitcoin. This process can take days or weeks on a very fast computer farm specifically optimized for bitcoin farming. In other words, you need to distribute the computing load to lots and lots of computers. And having lots and lots of computers can be very expensive, so hackers are finding a different way.

Hackers have figured out how to distribute this cryptocurrency farming code to your computer and cellphone by creating websites and mobile apps that look harmless, but will infect your device with a script that will do the bitcoin farming for them, earning them bitcoin off of the back of your device’s computing power.

If you download an app or visited a website and now your system is running slowly, it’s possible that your device may have been infected with this code. Even if you think the app you downloaded or website you visited is legitimate and safe, you still might be in trouble: in October of 2017, two apps were pulled from the Google Play store and found to be a part of a bitcoin farming scheme.

So how can you protect yourself?

You can use basic internet and cybersecurity precautions, like not visiting unsecure websites or downloading and opening any strange files to help minimize your risk of being infected by this sort of farming malware. But while these basic precautions are a good starting place, they can’t guarantee you won’t be affected. And they can’t help you if your device is already infected. If your technology is running slower, you find files you don’t recognize, or your device begins functioning erratically, call TechBldrs at (610) 937-0900 or email us at info@techbldrs.com so that we may begin assisting you.