You Could Be Unknowingly Mining for Cryptocurrencies.

The new hyped theory of cryptocurrencies are digital forms of currency that aren’t printed or backed by some tangible, precious metal, but are digitally ‘mined’ by solving equations computationally. ‘Mining’ in this way generally takes the form of competition, whereas whichever computer solves the equation the fastest is rewarded with a portion of the current value of the coin you are mining. With some cryptocurrencies, a pool of computers across locations can work together and share the reward allowing for stronger teamwork of hardware making these calculations faster and therefore, more effective.

When a computer is crypto-jacked, it is quietly added to a cooperative pool of crypto-mining devices. Unknowingly to the user, this is typically done using commercially available software which can be written in JavaScript within the code on a website. Made to look like an advertisement within the code, this ad runs in the background of the site which then adds the computer browsing it to the pool of crypto miners.

Since the recent, wildly volatile increases in cryptocurrency value have occurred, crypto-jacking has become much more prevalent either voluntarily or involuntarily on certain websites. While many applications are malicious in behavior by secretly embedding code such as Coinhive’s software in websites or taking over computers with malware, some companies have explored the possibility of using crypto-jacking as a revenue source in the stead of visual advertisements.

Salon, a US news site started to incorporate Coinhive in its site in order to capitalize on readers who use an ad-blocker to prevent advertisements from running. When you opt in to ‘suppress advertisements’, your computer’s unused processing power will be tapped into and pool it’s calculating abilities with others to mine cryptocurrency. Although it seems to be a decent trade off, withholding annoying advertisements and utilizing something you had available at the time, it wont go unnoticed. The now compromised computing resource you once had available isn't any longer and will significantly slow down any other process you decide to start up.

However illegal it seems to be when your computer is unknowingly crypto-jacked, it isn’t. As of right now, it’s merely unethical… which doesn’t seem to act as a deterrent for people to perpetuate shameful behavior on the internet anyways. The reason it isn’t illegal yet is because it differs from an actual botnet in terms maliciousness. The hackers are not forcing malware onto your system, it isn’t permanent, and doesn’t create a vulnerability for other parties to enter. When the tab closes, the mining stops. Either way, it’s difficult to get past the fact that it is done without your consent and furthermore, can impede your computer’s ability to perform other tasks in addition to running the script. Keeping in mind that it's more common than you think, how would you feel if your computer was temporarily used to mine cryptocurrencies?

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