Cryptominers killing cryptominers to squeeze more out of your CPU

It’s a dog-eat-dog world in this rat race.

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

Cryptomininers killing cryptominers to squeeze more out of your CPU

If 2017 was the year of ransomware, then this year has surely seen cryptojacking forcefully overtake its close criminal cousin.

If your computer gets hit by ransomware, your data files are encrypted and – unless you have a secure backup – your only way of getting them back is by paying your attacker with an anonymous cryptocurrency, and hoping they’ll respond with the key to unlock them.

Cryptojackers use a different technique. They don’t bother with the hassle of encrypting your files, displaying a scary ransom note, and walking you through the process of buying some Bitcoin or Monero cryptocurrency. Instead, they silently take over your computer’s processes, gobbling up CPU resources to mine for cryptocurrency at your expense.

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Well, it would be silent if they’re not too greedy, and your computer’s fan doesn’t go into overdrive as it tries to cool your computer chips as it crunches numbers in its desire to mine for digital money. Meanwhile, your laptop’s battery is being hammered, your computer has become sluggish, and your data usage is sky rocketing.

But being spotted isn’t the only problem that cryptomining malware has to contend with. Such has been the growth of attackers cryptojacking innocent users’ PCs, web browsers, and servers that it’s not at all uncommon for cryptomining code to find that it is running alongside… other people’s cryptomining code. And that means the greedy miner isn’t getting as much of a share of your CPU as they would like.

As security researcher Xavier Mertens describes, a newly-encountered malicious miner for the Monero cryptocurrency is working hard to kill any potential competitors it encounters for system resources, using an ever-expanding list.

It reminds me of the early days of malware, when viruses like Den Zuk and Klez would attempt to remove their rivals (Brain and the CodeRed worm respectively).

30 years may have passed since the advent of the computer virus problem, but there is still malware fighting malware for control of your PC.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

4 comments on “Cryptominers killing cryptominers to squeeze more out of your CPU”

  1. Prateek Paranjpe

    Title shows "Cryptomininers"
    Needs to be "Cryptominers"

  2. Pete

    It calls to mind the image of the Old West in the U.S., where Miss Lulu-Belle's Saloon — a valued establishment in the local community — is just going about its good, normal, cheerful business…

    …except that every once in a while, two rival bad-guys gangs come in and start shootin' at each other and everything else, bustin' things up, and generally making good, normal, cheerful business impossible.

    Yep…it can be a rough and tumble time out there on the cyber-frontier.

  3. Alex

    Now that you've outlined the problem, how about tips on where one can get started finding if such garbage is on a given a machine and disinfecting?

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