How to Stay Safe from Cryptojacking?

How to stay safe from cryptojacking while using used GPUs? Fortunately, the crypto bubble seems to be bursting and more and more people are taking onto crypto mining and other allied activities.

This craze has resulted in an increase in the sales of GPUs.

And, there are also a lot of second hand GPUs inundated the market which are also good to use and recoup some of the high expense related to crypto mining.

Now the question is whether or not these cards are safe to use and how vulnerable these are to cryptojacking.

Looking at it in a broader sense, the answer would be, ‘Yes it is but you should be well aware of the ways to detect whether or not you are being jacked off your crypto, and if so, follow the ways to prevent it.’

Typically, there are some risks in buying used GPUs or Graphics Processing Cards for crypto mining but those risks are in no way greater than the inherent risks of any other used parts.

If you are unaware of all these things, this article will break it down for your better understanding.

Every electronic component has its shelf life which means that after using them for some time it may be dangerous to continue using them.

However, the life expectancy of these devices can be enhanced if the conditions, settings, and the operational standards are favorable.

It applies to the GPUs as well, used or first-hand though these are a little different.

When you use them for crypto mining, there is a high chance to be hacked and therefore you will need to be knowledgeable about the ways to prevent it.

How to Stay Safe from Cryptojacking While Using Used GPUs?

How to Stay Safe from Cryptojacking While Using Used GPUs

All types of people are now interested in making money from crypto.

While the crypto enthusiasts try legal means to do so including crypto mining which has become the new career ad craze for many, a few resort to the dark side of it for the same.

They are called the crypto-jackers who use despicable means to exploit the huge computing power needed for crypto mining.

These greedy criminals follow a practice called cryptojacking which typically refers to stealing computing power without letting the users know from their unsuspecting devices.

In simple words, the cryptojackers recruit your device in their efforts to mine crypto coins faster.

There is always the risk of cryptojacking while mining crypto coins but the problem seems to be augmented when you use second hand GPUs for mining.

The use of used products is actually a concept that resulted from the lemon phenomenon.

According to this theory, a product that continues to work fine beyond its warranty period is believed to do so for several years more.

Here is where the engineering term ‘bathtub curve’ is applicable, but that is a more complex subject beyond the scope of this article for discussion.

Though it is not a crime to use used GPUs for mining new crypto coins, it will be unwise to ignore the ways in which you can keep yourself, your device, and your money most importantly from being jacked.

For that you will need to start right from the basics and gradually move to the more complicated aspects of cryptojacking and the ways to keep your device safe from the cryptojackers.

GPUs can fail occasionally, and used GPUs can be a bit more vulnerable to failures.

Such failures can happen soon after its installation due to wearing out of the exceptionally complex chip fabrication process due to regular use making it weak.

Now the question is why the used GPUs become weak. Well, apart from the general concept of time, handling, and maintenance, here is one of the main reasons that make the GPUs weak.

Crypto miners, in general, are not very keen on handling their hardware carefully.

This makes the system weak, especially the GPUs, due to constant crunching of numbers into the system, day-in and day-out.

Since the search for the right hash is elusive, this process is repeated rigorously which results in excessive use of electricity to solve the math puzzles using the graphics cards.

Therefore, mining crypto coins is all about hash power, the more you have the more you stand to win.

This is where the distributed chip design uses more electricity and the miners tend to under-volt the GPUs instead of overclocking them.

Add to that, the GPUs are not designed to stay cool by themselves.

Typically, they will become excessively hot running 24/7, with temperatures reaching anywhere between 50 and 70 degrees under heavy workload. This high temperature can stay for hours or even days.

The new cards will not face much issue due to this high temperature but the GPUs that have been used for several years before will be far less reliable when you use them for crypto mining.

That is why they do not overclock the GPUs. However, this makes the GPUs more vulnerable to hacking and jacking.

One useful and effective way to deal with this problem is to replace the cooling fans of a secondhand graphics card.

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This moving part is a modern graphics card that runs at a constant rate which makes the bearings and electrical motors significantly weaker and more susceptible to failure.

If the GPUs were used in a dusty setting and the former user did not clean it properly, it is all the more necessary to replace the cooling fans.

Now that you know about the vulnerability aspect of the GPUs, you should know about the different types of cryptojacking infection.

This will help you to know what type of infection your GPU mining is suffering from.

Browser based JavaScript mining:

The most common form of cryptojacking is related to browser based JavaScript mining.

This happens when you connect to a website hosting crypto mining JavaScript and the mining script assigns resources from your machine to solve math puzzles and mine crypto within the browser.

Computational power from your system will be consumed as long as you stay on the website reading an article, playing a game, watching a video, or listening to music.

Such type of cryptojacking occurs when you install the crypto mining JavaScript but the website owner fails to notify properly and get consent from the visitors who are mining crypto currently.

It may also happen when a hacker is able to compromise the website through a backdoor or by exploiting its poor security feature.

The hackers then install the crypto mining script along with pertinent banking and configuration information.

This will allow the hacker to direct all mining proceeds to a wallet of their choice.

The bad actors may also create a powerful fraud network by generating one or multiple sites with crypto mining software to take advantage of all traffic.

They may employ several click fraud tactics to direct the traffic to their own site and profit from them. However, this type of cryptojacking is easy to identify and remedy.

Infected local devices:

When a piece of malicious software, commonly known as malware, is infected into your device when you visit a website, it may also result in cryptojacking.

This is a process followed by more nefarious actors. The virus is infected when you download any unverified content or click to a link of any compromised network.

It can also happen due to ‘drive by’ download where the website itself downloads and installs malware in the background by itself and starts cryptojacking without warning the users.

Coins will be mined for the bad actors using your system till you remove the malware or stop the application process.

In most of the cases the antivirus or other protection software in your system may be able to detect this malware because it is much more sophisticated to evade detection.

It will typically run at a slow speed so that it does not use too many resources all of a sudden and get detected.

Since this type of cryptojacking is hard to detect, it takes a lot of time to remedy.

Infected or compromised servers:

The hackers always look for common and less-expensive exploits to jack crypto.

One such way is to infect or compromise the servers instead of the CPU and GPU resources of the individual end users.

This way they get to exploit a lot of users at the same time and also save on expensive equipment and high electricity bills.

The hackers usually get into the servers exploiting the errors in serialization, wrongly configured network settings or authentication and also look for machines that have weaker security protections and passwords.

More than the end users, such type of intrusions into the systems and cryptojacking raises greater concerns since it runs deep into the organization.

Regular monitoring of the machines and tracking resource usage by all computers are effective ways to detect this type of intrusions.

The effects:

The immediate effects of cryptojacking may not damage the data or the systems of the users but with high level of usage and over longer time periods it will increase the temperature which will damage the GPUs and shorten their lifespan.

Since you as well as the hacker will be using your system simultaneously, it is needless to say that your system will run slow and reduce your chances to be the first one to solve a puzzle and win the rewards since it will take much more time.

It will not only be annoying but will result in huge losses.

Signs and symptoms:

Therefore, if you want to stay profitable while mining crypto with used GPUs, you should be well aware of the signs and symptoms of cryptojacking.

  • Slow performance of your computer
  • Increase in power usage
  • Overheating
  • Fans spin up quickly
  • CPU or GPU failure and
  • Battery drain, wherever applicable.

These signs and symptoms are similar for all types of devices, whether it is a CPU mining rig, a GPU miner, an ASIC machine, or even a Server.

In order to detect whether your GPU mining rig is being cryptojacked, here are a few things that you should do:

  • Check whether the performance of your computer has suddenly become slow
  • Check the Windows Task Manager to find out any suspicious programs running or activities being performed
  • Check the browser icon whether it is active or not even after you have closed a window
  • Check for and files with strange and unfamiliar names and
  • Check your electricity bills for any spike.
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Closing apps that are not being used but still running in the background, deleting illegitimate apps, and running antivirus scans on a regular basis are also good practices to keep your device safe from cryptojacking, whether it is CPU, GPU or and an ASIC.

Knowing the Risks Involved

As said earlier, buying and using any used product has some risks and so does using used GPUs for crypto mining.

Therefore, you will need to be careful while using it and the best way to do so is by knowing the specific risks involved in it in the first place in order to minimize the chances of cryptojacking.

If you do not get these GPUs from a reliable source, the chances are high that these will be inferior in quality and performance.

Always select a reliable source having a large number of happy users to buy your second hand GPUs.

Also, if you go for the cheaper varieties, you will inevitably enhance the risks as well.

Therefore, abstain from buying those cheap GPUs for $250 which will offer little or no choice for recompense.

Reasons

There are a few specific reasons for the used GPUs to be prone to cryptojacking.

Over the years the cost of crypto mining has increased manifolds due to the increase in mining difficulty which has increased the need of computing power.

This raises the need for electricity which is quite costly in several regions of the world.

Moreover, there has been a surge in the number of crypto miners over the years which have also increased the computational power.

All these costs, individually or combined, negate the profits from crypto mining. Greedy crypto criminals and miners therefore look for alternative sources of power to lower their costs of mining.

So, they resort to cryptojacking and use the power of others’ computers for their profit.

Another significant reason for cryptojacking attacks to spread so much in the past few years is the random use of Android apps.

The cryptojackers create such apps and distribute them through three primary channels namely:

  • The Play Store
  • The third-party app stores and
  • Phishing emails.

It is very easy to fall prey to these apps and therefore widen the path to the attackers to intrude your mining systems.

Staying Safe

Whether you are using used GPUs or CPUs or an ASIC, fortunately, there are a few easy ways in which you can keep your device, you and your crypto coins safe from being jacked by the hackers.

  • Phishing mails: Know those phishing texts and emails and stay away from them. Some of the tell-tale signs of such mails and messages are poor language that shows that the sender wants quick response, poorly written text, imitating official organizations. Do not open these emails. Instead, contact the customer support to verify their legitimacy.
  • Ad blockers: You should use blockers to stop those ads from popping up off and on and eliminate the risks of malware infecting your system. Ideally, malicious actors try to gain access to your computer by hiding malicious codes in these pop-up ads.
  • VPN: You should use a VPN or Virtual Private Network if you have to instead of public Wi-Fi that usually has poor protection. Cryptojackers look for these soft spots to download software and enter into a device and start using the resources of the users.
  • Antivirus software: Always use the latest antivirus software from a reliable manufacturer instead of those cheap and lesser-known ones. Good antivirus software will be able to read the inconspicuous codes hidden in the legitimate ones and even scan for malware proactively to detect fake websites.
  • Monitor your device: Check your device on a regular basis looking for the signs and symptoms of cryptojacking as mentioned above.
  • Stay updated:  Know about the latest cryptojacking trends as well since this will help you to identify an attack more easily. Remember, cryptojackers are always trying out new ways to get hold of your system and use your computational power for their selfish benefits.
  • Special extensions: Using special extensions will also help in detecting and protecting your device from being crypto jacked.
  • Update Firewall protection: Use a Firewall and also make sure that it is the latest especially if your system is a part of a bigger network.
  • Disable JavaScript code: The JavaScript code is the most commonly used script by the websites. This is why the cryptojackers hide malicious crypto mining elements in JavaScript. Disabling it will be a better way to prevent your system from cryptojacking.

If you are using an android device, the threat of cryptojacking is further enhanced and simply avoiding the third party stores may not prove enough to keep your system safe.

To ensure a better protection you will need to:

  • Beware of the new apps, especially if these are not from any well-known author or make your system hot and drain battery quickly and
  • Beware of suspicious messages from unknown senders and do not click on anything that does not feel right until checking them through other channels such as phone calls or texts.

Since everything in crypto happens online, it is also necessary for you to know about the online security tips to keep your system safe from cryptojacking.

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Never trust anything blindly because cyber threats develop and become over time.

Therefore you should look everything on the internet with some skepticism.

Apart from that you should also use these particular measures in addition to the above:

  • Use and an anti-malware solution in addition to your antivirus software to identify the threats before hitting your system
  • Do not disable the ad blocker unless you know that the websites is a trusted one
  • Always keep your software updated so that the cryptojackers cannot find any unpatched weak points and
  • Always use a safer password manager or strong and hard-to-guess complex passwords to prevent your personal info from being compromised even if the system is attacked.

If you want to prevent the cryptojackers intruding deep into the systems of your organization then you will need to go deep as well and ensure that the chances of cryptojacking in your organization are eliminated right from the root.

There are lots of things to do in this regard which are usage and user specific.

In general, to ensure that your employees do not pave the path for the cryptojackers to intrude your systems and your organization, here are a few specific steps to follow:

  • Ensure that you implement a cryptojacking threat awareness program in your security training campaigns which should include knowledge of its different types as well as the technical solutions to it.
  • Use different endpoint protection solutions that are known to detect and prevent cryptojacking scripts over and above the traditional ad blockers and anti-crypto mining extensions on the web browsers.
  • Always ensure that everyone in your organization uses the latest web filtering tools. This will identify sites or web pages that deliver cryptojacking scripts and will ensure that the users are disallowed accessing the same page again.
  • Make sure that you maintain a strict policy regarding using browser extensions. This will prevent your employees from using those poisoning extensions that look legitimate or the downright malicious browser extensions.
  • You will also need to keep a check on what is in the users’ devices. For ensuring better control it is better to use an MDM or a Mobile Device Management solution. This will add to the security level if you follow a strict BYOD or Bring Your Own Device policy by managing apps and extensions more efficiently.

As for you, you should learn a lot and know how to adapt.

This will enhance your knowledge and experience and know how exactly a hacker can compromise your systems.

You should make sure that all the users are also equally knowledgeable and updated about the latest in cryptojacking.

Having a competent helpdesk and an IT team will also help in identifying cryptojacking threats and scripts easily and respond quickly and accordingly.

Since the principles of avoiding web-based vulnerabilities are applicable in the case of cryptojacking as well, you may be better off using some of the tools, techniques, and browser plugins to keep the systems of your organization safe.

The tools and techniques that your IT team, network engineers and administrators can use include and are not limited to:

  • Monitoring computer resources
  • Tracking computer activities
  • Detecting increased usage and energy consumption in each system
  • Blocking IP addresses of the mining sites if necessary
  • Ensuring proper configuration of cloud settings and containers
  • Integrating top-class security into every stage
  • Focusing on development
  • Installing the latest patches and software updates for all apps and operating system and
  • Creating a Content Security Policy to put off code injection attacks.

For the everyday users for daily browsing, you may follow these safety tips:

  • Using dedicated browser extensions for block mining
  • Using ad blockers that focus on privacy
  • Using extensions to block script or turning off JavaScript option completely in the browser and
  • Using a more privacy-centric browser.

Remember, none of these measures are foolproof. Therefore the best advice that can be given to prevent the systems of your organization from being crypto jacked is to monitor them continuously.

It is good to know that the mining process itself will not compromise your system whether you use a new graphics card or a used one.

It is the flaws in the cyber security and the loopholes in the defense of your system that may cause all the problems making your system vulnerable to cryptojacking.

Therefore, continual reassessment of your procedures and policies will pay off well and strengthen the security and safety of your system while crypto mining.

Conclusion

The safety measures to follow whether you use an entirely new crypto mining rig or one with used GPUs are the same. Hope this article has enlightened you about the ways in which you can keep your system safe and make more profits.