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A Guide to Crypto Mining Risks: What You Need to Know

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    Cryptocurrency mining can be an attractive opportunity for enthusiasts and investors seeking to participate in the decentralized digital economy. However, it's essential to understand the associated risks before diving into the mining world. Without a general due diligence, it is not recommended to start mining since it involves many different risks, which we shall discuss later.


    Understanding Crypto Mining Risks


    To mitigate crypto mining risks, we need to understand how it works in detail. From acquiring mining equipment to distributing mining rewards to wallets, crypto mining involves a set of technical requirements a user must adhere to.  


    Malware Infections


    Crypto malware is malicious software specifically engineered to target digital wallets and cryptocurrency exchanges, aiming to acquire cryptocurrencies illicitly. This type of malware infiltrates a user's computer or device to access their digital wallet or exchange account. Once the malware gains unauthorized access, it executes various nefarious activities. Crypto malware poses a significant threat to individuals and organizations involved in the cryptocurrency space. It can result in financial losses, data breaches, and other adverse consequences.


    Overheating Hazards


    Mining overheating hazards pose significant risks to cryptocurrency miners and their equipment. Continuous mining operations generate substantial heat, which can cause hardware components such as CPUs, GPUs, and ASICs (Application-Specific Integrated Circuits) to overheat.  Elevated temperatures can impair the performance and efficiency of mining hardware, leading to decreased hash rates and diminished mining profitability. Overheating mining hardware often requires additional cooling measures, such as increased fan speeds or supplementary cooling systems, to maintain optimal operating temperatures.


    Rising Electricity Costs


     Mining operations require significant energy to power equipment, ventilation, processing, and other systems. Energy can account for 10-40% of mines' operating costs. With volatile fossil fuel prices and climbing electricity rates, energy costs have become a significant pain point for industry. Rising energy expenses have a cascading effect on mining economics. More capital must be allocated to cover these costs, leaving less available for exploration, equipment upgrades, or new mines' development. To remain profitable, some mines must focus on only their highest-grade deposits. This diminishes reserve life and long-term sustainability.


    Legal and Regulatory Risks


    Crypto mining is legal in most countries, and you generally don't need special permission to do it. However, since it requires large amounts of electricity, social activists are raising concerns worldwide regarding carbon emissions and environmental pollution. Thus, some countries have proposed strict rules and regulations regarding crypto mining to minimize environmental impacts. Additionally, since crypto mining scams are prevalently reported across some countries, governments are keen to set laws, safety standards, and rules within the crypto mining realm to protect investors from falling prey to such scams.


    The Threat of Ponzi Schemes


    A Ponzi scheme is a type of financial fraud in which earlier investors are paid from the funds brought in by new investors. Thus, the scheme perpetuates the appearance of profitability for as long as new victims join in sufficient numbers. Such schemes exist in crypto and any other industry in the economy. While it is true that the correlation between digital assets and equity markets is generally more significant than in the early years of crypto, we must consider the contribution of riskier assets (e.g., growth stocks) to innovation and economic growth. So, to avoid such cases, we need to do reasonable due diligence before entering into any mining or investing process.


    The Mechanics of Cryptojacking


    Cryptojacking scripts, often embedded within websites or malicious advertisements, gain access to a victim's device through unsuspecting clicks or vulnerable software. Once infiltrated, these scripts execute a code that harnesses the device's processing power to solve complex mathematical equations, known as cryptocurrency mining.


    Cryptojacking Explained


    Cryptojacking consists of hackers using the computing power of a compromised device to generate or "mine" cryptocurrency without the owner's knowledge. Mining can be performed by installing a malicious program on the target computer or through various fileless malware. Sometimes, attackers take over part of the computer's processing power when a page containing a particular mining script is opened. Cryptojacking has been known to occur when viewing online ads or solving a CAPTCHA.


    The Prevalence of Monero in Cryptojacking


    Recently, cybercriminals have shifted their focus from infecting end-user machines to targeting cloud services. This change in strategy is driven by several factors, including the preference for Monero (XMR) as the cryptocurrency of choice for illicit mining activities. Monero offers the highest returns for CPU mining compared to other cryptocurrencies. This makes it an attractive option for cybercriminals seeking to maximize their profits from mining operations. Additionally, many cloud services must grant access to a conventional computer's graphics processing unit (GPU) and resources, limiting miners to utilize only the central processing unit (CPU) for mining purposes.


    How Cryptojacking Malware Spreads


    Cybercriminals employ various tactics to install cryptojacking software on unsuspecting victims' devices, allowing them to discreetly mine cryptocurrencies or pilfer from cryptocurrency wallets. Victims may continue using their devices as usual but notice slower performance or delays. Hackers typically utilize two primary methods to surreptitiously mine cryptocurrencies:


    Malicious Links in Emails: Cybercriminals may send phishing emails containing malicious links to potential victims. Upon clicking the link, the victim's computer loads crypto mining code, which runs in the background without their knowledge. 

    Infected Websites or Online Ads: Another method involves infecting legitimate websites or online advertisements with JavaScript code designed to execute automatically when loaded in the victim's browser. 


    Strategies to Avoid Malware and Cryptojacking


    To protect yourself against cryptojacking and other cybersecurity threats, follow these proactive measures:


    Implement Comprehensive Cybersecurity Software: Invest in a robust cybersecurity program like Kaspersky Total Security, which offers comprehensive threat detection capabilities, including protection against crypto-jacking malware.

    Stay Informed About Cryptojacking Trends: Cybercriminals continuously adapt their tactics and develop new methods to deploy cryptojacking malware. Stay informed about the latest cybersecurity trends to promptly recognize and mitigate potential threats.

    Utilize Browser Extensions for Cryptojacking Protection: Install browser extensions to block crypto-jacking scripts from executing in your web browser. Popular extensions like minerBlock, No Coin, and Anti-Miner can effectively detect and prevent unauthorized crypto mining activities while you browse the internet.

    Employ Ad Blockers: Since cryptojacking scripts are often delivered through online advertisements, consider installing an ad blocker like Ad Blocker Plus to prevent these ads from loading in your browser. 

    Consider Disabling JavaScript: Disabling JavaScript in your web browser can prevent crypto-jacking code from executing on your device. However, this approach may also limit the functionality of certain websites and web applications that rely on JavaScript. 


    Conclusion


    There are many risks associated with cryptomining. By performing relevant due diligence before mining and adopting these proactive cybersecurity measures, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to crypto-jacking attacks and protect your devices and data from unauthorized exploitation by cybercriminals. Remember to prioritize security best practices, stay informed about emerging threats, and regularly update your cybersecurity defenses to stay ahead of evolving cyber threats.


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    Eugen Tanase

    Chief Operating Officer, 1BitUp

    Eugen Tanase is Chief Operating Officer at 1BitUp. Along his long Corporate Management career he gained lots of expertise in Renewable Energy Projects, Transnational Trade of Energy Resources, and many other fields. Starting 2015 he stepped into the study Decentralized Applications and Blockchain along with Bitcoin mainstream. From 2017 he embraced WEB3 and Cloud Mining .

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