Between the months of June and December of last year, the price of a bitcoin went from 2,000 dollars to 20,000. There are two ways to get bitcoins. One of them is simple: buying them. There are exchange houses specialized in converting dollars or euros into this virtual currency. The other form is more complex but it is widely extended. It is called mining.
The verb is a metaphor that associates the extraction of physical value that is done in a real mine with the work done by the miners of the Bitcoin community. Its mission is to lend the resources of your computer to support the distribution network on which this virtual currency is based. The teams involved in this task are counted in millions.
There are millions of teams dedicated to creating cryptocurrencies
The provision of computing resources is rewarded with bitcoins. But to get just one of these virtual currencies you have to use a lot of equipment. And this is where the coin creators come in. These infect web pages to hijack the resources of your computer when you visit them.
Computer security firm ESET observed that in mid-December, coinciding with a peak in the price of Bitcoin, more than half of the threats detected by its systems consisted of unauthorized mining. “It has come to assume 60% of the threats. I had only seen peaks like this in specific cases, such as ransomware campaigns, “says Josep Albors, head of awareness and research at ESET Spain, who also mentioned a rebound in the trend in early January. Another security company, Kaspersky, detected 1.65 million attacks of this type, only in the first eight months of 2017.
It has come to assume 60% of the threats. I had only seen peaks like this in specific cases, like ransomware campaigns
The first cases sounded occurred in summer, although it was not until later when this activity spread more. The hare jumped to the news that the popular download site The Pirate Bay included a code of mine bitcoins without notifying their users. Later, other cases surfaced, such as the Movistar website, which contained the code because of an internal error, or that of Cristiano Ronaldo, who was infected.
“In November [the fraudulent mining] began to rise in an exaggerated way. With legitimate websites involved, some with millions of visits, “says Albors. But the objective is not usually Bitcoin but Monero, another one of the so-called cryptocurrencies that are totally anonymous. The reason for this increase? “Many cybercriminals have seen that they get more money this way than with ransomware .”
Some web pages include it in their code as a source of income alternative to advertising, according to Albors. “It would be normal to be notified. It’s not that it’s illegal, it could be an alternative to advertising, but if you slip it without warning, it’s unethical. ”
To prevent someone from generating cryptocurrencies without permission, browsers are already taking action. The first to do so has been Opera, which has included in its update a module that blocks the mining of cryptocurrencies.
Opera has been the first browser that prevents the mining of cryptocurrencies
The best-known brands of antivirus have also included alerts to prevent mining. Although there are some actions that the user can take on their own. The simplest is to install an extension for the browser that blocks mining. One of the most popular is No Coin (available for Chrome and Firefox ), but there are also others like minerBlock (Chrome) or NoMiner (Firefox).
Extensions can be used to prevent your computer from being used to create money
The rise in prices in cryptocurrencies has acted as a magnet to attract the masses. “The price has exploded”, certifies Alex Preukschat, specialist in the blockchain, the technology behind these cryptocurrencies. “There is a global speculative boom, which was previously a minority.”
It is an upward phase, but Preukschat, who has been following Bitcoin for years, believes that consolidation will follow. “This is not the first time it happens. We have seen it when the price of Bitcoin went from 30 to 220 dollars. It collapsed. Then it went up to 1,200, it collapsed again, “he recalls. After the peaks reached in December, moderation could be expected. “The mass of people is usually approached by speculation. This is when the value swells disproportionately. But then there is a significant percentage of people who stay to understand the technology. ”
In these peaks, Bitcoin drags the rest of the cryptocurrencies. For the next few months, Preukschat believes that we should see a significant correction in the price of cryptocurrency. At the moment they are only predictions, but there is one thing that is clear. If the price of these virtual coins goes down, so will the threat of mining not authorized by the user.
There is a global speculative boom, which was previously a minority