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The total value of all cryptocurrency assets in the world is measured in trillions. As new cryptocurrencies pop up left and right, they are expected to only increase in the years to come.
On the other hand, the crypto anonymity grants have made it very attractive to cyber criminals, who keep finding new ways to exploit vulnerabilities in consumer devices and make money. Unsurprisingly, this includes smartphones.
What is cryptojacking? How does it work on smartphones?
Cryptojacking is a type of cyberattack in which a threat actor hijacks a target’s device with the aim of using it to mine cryptocurrency. Such an attack uses your device’s processing power without your knowledge or consent to solve cryptographic equations, thereby generating crypto for someone else.
Today’s smartphones are more powerful than supercomputers just 10 years ago, so they can definitely be used to mine crypto. Naturally, this has made them a prime target of cryptojacking attacks.
Both Android and iOS smartphones can be used to mine crypto. However, it is important to note that Android devices are far more vulnerable to all types of cyberattacks than iPhones, especially non-jailbroken iPhones.
But how do cryptojackers spread on mobile devices, which are usually more resistant to malware than desktop computers?
Your smartphone can be infected with a cryptojacker in a number of ways, but most often this happens when you download files from unverified sources. For example, when you download a file from a random website instead of using a proper app store.
However, legitimate apps can also be misused by cyber criminals. If they manage to get inside an app, they can inject malicious code into it and use it to deploy all sorts of malware, including cryptojacking malware. Of course, malicious mining code can also be injected into a website or online advertisement, hide behind phishing links, and the like.
Once a cryptojacker is on your smartphone, he uses his power to mine cryptocurrencies in the background. And it would most likely mine Monero, a cryptocurrency known for its privacy features and incredibly difficult to track. For example, when the superhero movie Spider-Man: No Way Home came out in 2021, a threat actor deployed what appeared to be a torrent file of the movie, but was actually a Monero miner.
5 signs your smartphone is infected with crypto-malware
Crypto-malware affects your smartphone in a variety of ways, damaging its hardware and possibly causing the device to fail completely. The good news is that it is very easy to tell if your smartphone is being used to mine cryptocurrency. Here are five red flags and warning signs to look out for.
1. It heats up
Is your phone heating up faster than usual? Does it feel abnormally hot on your hand even when you’re not using apps that consume a lot of power? Does it stay hot even if you put it down for a while? If the answer to these questions is yes, there is a good chance your device is being used to mine crypto.
2. The battery life is shorter
If you find yourself charging your smartphone more often than usual because the battery life is much shorter than it used to be, there is definitely a problem with that. And yes, the problem could be crypto-malware.
3. The user interface stutters
Does your smartphone’s interface stutter and lag even when you’re trying to do simple tasks like setting an alarm or changing settings? This is another red flag and possibly a sign that a cryptojacker is on your phone.
4. Apps lag and crash
Another sign that your smartphone is infected with cryptojacking malware is apps that are unresponsive, freezing, lagging, or crashing frequently – this happens because crypto miners are consuming all the CPU power.
5. The keyboard responds
This may sound strange, but keyboard problems are often a sign of some sort of malware infection. So if it takes a long time for your keyboard to appear or if you notice strange typing lag, you may have a crypto miner on your phone.
In general, sudden changes in your smartphone’s behavior are a reliable sign that something is wrong. A combination of overheating, lags, crashes, and similar malfunctions is often the result of cryptojacking. But there are steps you can take to prevent this from happening.
How to prevent mobile cryptojacking
First of all, you should only download apps from regulated marketplaces like Google Play and the App Store. And even if you do, you need to be careful and do a little research before downloading any app. This includes basic precautions, like reading the reviews and Googling the company behind the product.
Second, never click on a link that comes from an unknown email address, even if it appears legitimate. And if you’re not entirely sure, test it with a link checker tool – there’s plenty to choose from.
It’s obviously important to regularly update your operating system and patch vulnerabilities, but you can further improve malware protection with security apps and ditch your mainstream browser for a more secure and private alternative.
And if you happen to download a cryptojacker, make sure you react as soon as possible. The first thing you should do is try to remove the malware manually or with your security software. If that fails, consider performing a factory reset. However, remember that this is a full software recovery and you will lose access to all data on your phone unless backed up somewhere. This should definitely be your last resort.
Increase the security of your smartphone to ward off attacks
Cryptojacking malware will remain a threat for a long time. And that makes perfect sense because the more powerful smartphones are, the more crypto they can mine, and the more common these attacks will be.
Obviously, securing your smartphone has never been more important. But there are many ways to do just that, and there are plenty of free apps that can make the whole process painless.
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