What is crypto malware? And how to detect it

Privacy news
5 mins
What is crypto malware

Crypto malware is designed to take control of your computer to mine cryptocurrencies—without you even realizing. Don’t want cybercriminals to take advantage of you? There are some steps you can take to protect yourself, and it all starts with awareness.

To understand crypto malware, we must first understand how crypto mining works.To mine crypto, a computer solves puzzles using an algorithm. The more puzzles the computer solves, the more cryptocurrency is created. Not only is this process slow, but it uses an incredibly high amount of computer processing power and energy, making crypto mining an impractical activity for the average person.

But where there’s money to be had, there are those who seek to find ways to do it cheaply and quickly. Despite wild fluctuations in value and recent declines, cryptocurrency remains sought after. Cybercriminals looking to get rich and with as few resources as possible are turning to crypto malware.

What is crypto malware?

Crypto malware often refers to a type of malware that aims to mine cryptocurrencies on a victim’s computer without detection. The attackers gain computing resources and hence more crypto, while the victims might experience a slower computer and higher electricity bills—with no payoff. This is also known as cryptojacking.

How does crypto malware work

Crypto malware is spread much the same way as any other malware. For example, a seemingly ​​innocuous email attachment could install the malware onto your device if you click on it. Crypto malware is disguised as legitimate software that when installed, embeds malicious code into applications and programs.

Even more worrying, crypto malware could be installed through a compromised website or app, without the user having to download anything. When the victim visits the compromised website, a JavaScript code runs automatically, allowing attackers to cryptojack. These types of crypto malware attacks are harder to detect as the malicious code is stored in the browser and not on the device.

Crypto malware vs. crypto ransomware

Crypto malware and crypto ransomware both share the same end goal: To obtain cryptocurrency for the attackers. But their attack methods are completely different.

Crypto malware aims to run in the background, undetected, for as long as possible. It uses the victim’s computer’s resources to mine cryptocurrency.

Crypto ransomware attacks are just like any ransomware attack, where the attacker locks the victim’s device or system, holding them for ransom. The payment they seek in exchange for giving the victim access is cryptocurrency. Because all ransomware attacks demand cryptocurrency payments, crypto ransomware is simply another term for ransomware.

Read more: How to prevent ransomware

Why are crypto-malware attacks on the rise?

Despite recent declines in value, most well-known cryptocurrencies are still worth a lot of money.

And for cryptojackers, it could be easy money. Once the malicious code is installed on the victim’s device, it runs independently and in the background indefinitely. They don’t have to collect data or sell it; crypto malware mines a steady stream of cryptocurrency, making it very profitable for cybercriminals.

Other types of crypto cyberattacks, like ransomware, can also be effective for criminals. It’s nearly impossible for victims to recover their files without paying the ransom. This is why it’s so important to stay vigilant and protect yourself against attacks.

What happens if you get crypto malware?

Crypto malware’s ongoing use of computer resources to mine cryptocurrency can cause major performance problems on the victim’s device. While the objective of crypto malware is to mine more cryptocurrency, malware also exposes your device to cybercriminals who can target your data.

Examples of crypto malware


CryptoLocker is malware that holds your files for ransom by encrypting them. It is a type of crypto ransomware. Encryption works by relying on two “keys,” one public key and one private key. Attackers use the public key to encrypt and lock your files. The program will demand a ransom payment to decrypt your files, as only the attackers hold the private key that can decrypt them.

Prometei Botnet

Botnets are a network of computers infected with malware and controlled as a group without the victims’ knowledge. Prometei Botnet aims to install itself on as many devices as possible to mine the Monero cryptocurrency. It is an opportunistic malware (it targets victims randomly) and uses known exploits to spread itself across a network of devices. Prometei Botnet has been found across the U.S. and Europe.


PowerGhost is a fileless crypto malware that is known to attack corporate servers and workstations, embedding and spreading itself undetected across endpoints and servers. It is capable of disabling antivirus software and other competing cryptocurrency miners to evade detection and obtain maximum yield of cryptocurrency from an infected device.

Read more: The biggest crypto thefts of all time

How to stay protected from crypto malware

Crypto malware is built to avoid detection and for the unauthorized use of computer resources to mine cryptocurrencies. It’s a serious threat to your device and potentially your data. Plus, who would want a stranger profiting off them? Here are some measures you can take to prevent crypto-malware attacks.

1. Know your IT infrastructure

Understanding what the typical performance is for devices that make up your network infrastructure (like your router, Wi-Fi points, computers, etc.) can help with identifying potential red flags. If your computer overheats in situations where it previously didn’t, it may be something to investigate.

2. Monitor your network

One way to be aware of what’s going on with your devices is to monitor your network. You can do this by checking your device system logs and router logs to look out for any unrecognized traffic or activity.

3. Don’t open email attachments or links from unknown sources

If you’re unsure of a link’s destination or the source of an email attachment, it’s best not to click on them.

4. Be careful about the websites you visit

Always verify weblinks, especially when they come from an SMS or email. A quick Google search can help you distinguish between genuine and fake links. Also, if you notice the webpage is formatted differently, has too many typos, or has low-resolution imagery (especially with the logo), you should immediately leave.

5. Use a strong password

A strong password is your first defense against unauthorized access to your accounts. Pair it with two-factor authentication for an additional layer of security. The ultimate password power move is to use a password manager. Password managers can generate strong passwords, securely store them, and automatically fill them into login screens.

6. Back up your data regularly

To protect yourself against data loss, like in the event of a ransomware attack, you need to keep multiple copies of important files, ideally in diverse locations that are controlled by you. This way, if your computer gets locked with ransomware, you could potentially abandon it rather than pay. Learn more about backing up your files and encrypting them.

7. Keep your devices up to date

Declining software updates increase the likelihood of attackers exploiting unpatched systems. Keeping your devices updated ensures a baseline level of security.

FAQ: About crypto malware

How do I know if I have crypto-mining malware?
What is a crypto miner attack?
Can hacked crypto be recovered?
How do you detect cryptojacking?
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