You might be pretty familiar with how viruses, malware and other types of malicious software might work — usually they embed themselves in a file and activate once that file is installed on your computer. Now, a rising problem are companies or hackers planting cryptomining software within websites. The way this works is that the software essentially hijacks your processor and uses your CPU to mine Bitcoin (or another cryptocurrency) for someone else other than yourself.
Obviously, this is wrong, especially without your own consent. One company or site that recently did something like this was The Pirate Bay. They used the excuse that they were getting rid of advertisements and had to make money somehow to keep their servers up. It’s certainly not a good excuse, because, as we all know, borrowing something without permission is a serious problem.
We’re going to show you how you can protect yourself against a website that wants to hijack your processor for their own cryptomining. Be sure to follow along below, and we’ll show you how you can put your processor under lock and key in a situation like this.
Is Cryptomining Wrong?
The funny thing about using other people’s PCs for mining cryptocurrency is that it’s perfectly legal, as long as the site is given consent. For example, if you choose to block ads on www.salon.com, they’ll ask you to use your PC for cryptomining. If you agree, a miner is applied to your sessions that lasts for 24 hours — once that 24 hours is up, you’ll have to give them consent again.
So, cryptomining is perfectly legal for sites that ask for consent. The problem is a lot of the backwoods sites that simply begin using your PC for cryptomining without any consent. On top of that, these types of sites usually use a lot more than just a little bit of your CPU load, and can actually slow your computer down to a crawl.
Chasing down a problem like that can be a serious headache. So, you can figure out if you’re being cryptomined fairly easily below, and then put a stop to it through some of your defense software.
How do you know if you’re being used for cryptomining?
Right away, it can be difficult to tell if you’re PC is being used for cryptomining. However, since cryptomining primarily hijacks your processor, there is at least one way to tell.
One way is if you’re seeing increased PC slowdowns for no apparent reasons. You can tell for sure by opening up Windows Task Manager and seeing what your CPU load looks like. This load is going to be very high, sometimes as much as 100%, if you’re being used for cryptomining purposes. In the event that you’re being used for cryptomining, in most cases, it’ll say your browser is taking up the most CPU power. Close the program that’s taking up the processing power and see if anything changes.
Now, reopen the browser, but only visit sites that you know are safe, such as Google or Facebook (these sites aren’t using you for cryptomining). If the CPU load stays normal, it’s not wrong to assume that you were being used for cryptomining (a lot of normal sites we use have started to use other folks’ PC’s for cryptomining, such as Salon.com).
So, how do you avoid this type of activity while browsing the Web? A good start is antivirus protection, followed by anti-cryptomining extensions.
As you already know, the first line of defense against any sort of malicious software is good and reputable anti-virus protection. Usually, in most cases, it’s not recommended to use your system’s stock or built-in anti-virus protection — it can work well as a second line of defense, but you’ll want to get something a little better than that.
For something like this, we recommend downloading Malware Bytes. It’s free, or you can get the full program for $40 for a year. By downloading and installing Maleware Bytes on your PC, you’ll get full protection against malicious software. If you access a website that has cryptomining software built into it, Malware Bytes will notify you, stop you from accessing the site or will block that portion of software entirely.
Like we already said, you can also use your built-in antivirus software to complement Malware Bytes — this will ensure that nothing can get through your defenses and hijack your processor. Malware Bytes really is the best software for this because it uses a couple of built-in technologies to actively fight malicious software on the Web, whereas most antivirus, such as your built-in antivirus, is more reactive than proactive.
As an alternative, you can use Avast. It’s pricier than Malware Bytes, but will offer you ultimate Internet Security protection against things like cryptomining. It blocks things like suspicious behavior, and keeps on top of the latest malicious software. It does this by constantly sending malicious files to the Cloud for verification, and then Avast is able to quickly push out a fix for Avast users. This means that with Avast, the antivirus should be able to catch even cutting edge malicious software that can harm your computer, and put a stop to it.
You can download it here.
Another way you can stop software from hijacking your processor for cryptomining is through cryptomining-specific extensions. These are free and cost no money, and actually offer you ample protection against it. These extensions are, of course, not a 100% surefire solution, but they will intercept attacks, show you what site has the malicious software and allow you to block offending sites.
Here are some of our favorites, for Google Chrome:
The first extension that you’ll want to consider is MinerBlock. A free extension, MinerBlock will show you how many domains are trying to use your PC for mining cryptocurrency. Of course, MinerBlock will put a stop to these entities, but MinerBlock will allow you to add sites to your whitelist. It’ll let you whitelist a domain, but also block a specific cryptomining path. MineBlock will even display how many sites its blocking in the top right corner of the icon in your browser.
MinerBlock is free and offers you a quick way to get in contact with the developer in the event that you detect a problem. Like we said, MinerBlock is free, but they do accept donations through PayPal.
Download it now: MinerBlock
No Coin is a much simpler version of MinerBlock. Install it (for free, of course), and No Coin gets to work straight away at blocking sites that are using your computing power to mine cryptocurrency for themselves. Like we already said, No Coin is pretty simple in comparison to MinerBlock — No Coin can either actively block websites (upon installing it, it blocks any and all cryptomining endeavors it finds), you can stop it from actively blocking websites, or you can choose to whitelist websites, and for a certain duration of time (i.e. one minute, 30 minutes, permanently, etc).
Another neat thing is that No Coin is built directly into the Opera browser. So, if you’re using Opera, in the background, cryptomining endeavors are automatically being blocked, no plugins or extensions needed.
Download it now: No Coin
As you can see, cryptomining isn’t necessarily wrong, but it is certainly frustrating, especially when a site decides to use your computer for such purposes without your consent. By following the steps above, you should be able to stop any cryptomining that comes you way, especially by using extensions like No Coin and MinerBlock — you’ll be scot-free from sites taking advantage of your processor. Using antivirus and extensions to keep yourself safe from cryptomining will save you a lot of frustration and time trying to figure out what is slowing down your PC.
It’s worth noting that some cryptomining is just plain malware, no matter what way you put it. Usually, this type of malware is transferred to you through an image file or a redirect to a malicious website. Luckily, if you followed the steps above, you should still be safe from this type of cryptomining because either Malware Bytes or Avast will be able to detect it and take care of it. If not, you can always use Revo Uninstaller to get rid of any trace of a file that might be causing the problem.
Of course, there are sites that you might give the OK for using your PC for mining cryptocurrency. In that case, extensions like MinerBlock and No Coin are really nice, because they allow you to whitelist specific sites, meaning you can still support your favorite outlets by offering a little CPU power.