Cryptojacking smartphones: The new alternative for secret miners?

Experts say hackers are mining cryptocurrencies through smartphones causing them to overheat to the point they are damaged or destroyed. This type of cyber attack is called cryptojacking, and it involves harnessing the victim’s machine and performing the computations necessary to update cryptocurrency blockchains known as mining.

Gerome Billois, an IT service management expert said:

“[Cryptojacking] consists of entrapping an internet server, a personal computer or a smartphone to install malware to mine cryptocurrencies.”

Mining is a process in which transactions for various cryptocurrencies are verified and added to the digital ledger that is the blockchain. Each time a cryptocurrency transaction is made the miner has to verify the authenticity of the information and update the transaction in the blockchain. By updating all such transactions on the blockchain and adding it to new blocks, the miner gets rewarded with some of the currency.

Mining Bitcoin, Ethereum, Monero and other cryptocurrencies can be very profitable, but the huge electricity bills and high investments led hackers finding an alternative which was attacking the processors in smartphones. This creates new tokens to be used by the hacker, leaving the user to shoulder the costs of electricity and wear and tear caused by mining.

Smartphone owners face the consequences as the operation of the phone will slow down and making it warm to the touch as the processor struggles to unlock cryptocurrency and simultaneously perform the functions of a normal phone. Cryptojacking affects mostly smartphones running Google’s Android operating system whereas Apple exercises more control over apps that can be installed on its phones.

To lure victims, hackers use innocuous applications through which they hijack the user’s phone for mining. Gaming apps have been frequently used by hackers to mine currencies. Researchers at IT security firm ESET said:

“Recently, we have discovered that a version of the popular game Bug Smasher, installed from Google Play between 1 and 5 million times, has been secretly mining the cryptocurrency Monero on user’s devices”

David Emm, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab said:

“More and more mobile applications hiding Trojan horses associated to a cryptocurrency mining programme have appeared on the platforms in the last 12 months.”

The miners are very discreet and there are millions of applications thus making it difficult for the authorities to stop such activities. Online fraud expert Laurent Petroque at F5 Networks said:

“Besides installing an antivirus program, it is important to update Android phones to the latest version available. People who decide to download apps from non-official sources are at more risk of inadvertantly downloading a malicious app”

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