How to stop websites from using your computer to mine Bitcoin (and more)

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Browser-based cryptocurrency mining activity exploded in the last few months of After many years of deathly silence, the catalyst appears to be the launch of a new browser-based mining service in September by Coinhive.

This service wraps everything up nicely in an easy-to-use package for website owners and has injected new life into an idea that was long thought of as dead and buried. Browser-based mining, as its name suggests, is a method of cryptocurrency mining that happens inside a browser and is implemented using scripting language.

This is different compared to the more widely known file-based cryptocurrency mining approach which involves downloading and running a dedicated executable file. Browser-based mining dates back to May of when an innovative service called BitcoinPlus. That service was in many ways remarkably similar to its here are some even more details on bitcoin mining new block detected reincarnation, Coinhive. It used JavaScript code for pooled mining and website owners could sign up to the service and embed these scripts into their web pages to make page visitors mine for them.

The big difference is that back in BitcoinPlus. Back inbefore the advent of ASIC mining inBitcoin was still in its infancy, mining difficulty was relatively low, and cryptocurrency prices were even lower. It was just about possible to do some mining with home-grade hardware. Even though it was possible at that time to mine for Bitcoin via BitcoinPlus. The reward was minuscule compared to the amount of mining power and electricity required. Due to this fundamental profitability problem with browser-based mining, it soon withered away.

The growing problem of profitability was made even worse by the here are some even more details on bitcoin mining new block detected use of ASIC miners. The advent of ASIC miners dragged bitcoin mining out of the realm of home users and into an industrial age dominated by the massive mining farms that we are more familiar with today.

After the demise of Tidbit, the idea of browser-based JavaScript cryptocurrency mining largely died away once again. Despite these setbacks, key lessons were learned. The point of a service like Tidbit was never about single servers or high-end computers doing solo mining.

The true power of this service came from scaling up and pooling the potentially massive combined mining power of masses of users with average hardware visiting a website. Fast forward to Septemberthe cryptocurrency landscape compared with had changed drastically.

The market for cryptocurrency was extremely limited and illiquid, meaning that even if you got some, it was not easy to turn it back into fiat currency for spending.

Together with the diversity of coins to choose from inthere was also now a diversity of coin reward mechanisms. It's against this here are some even more details on bitcoin mining new block detected that Coinhive released its browser-mining scripts designed to mine Monero, effectively bringing the idea of browser-based mining back from the dead.

Coinhive is marketed as an alternative to browser ad revenue. The motivation behind this is simple: Users hopefully then get a cleaner, faster, and potentially less risky website remember malvertising? What could go wrong? Soon after the release of the Coinhive service, the hash rate for the service started to climb, and quickly too. Hashing is the process of carrying out cryptographic hash calculations which are used to help process transactions.

Miners who participate in a mining pool get paid a share of income generated by the pool. The Coinhive pool reached just over five percent of that total which is quite an achievement in such a short time.

However, the idea was once again revived in December by a group of MIT students in a project called Tidbit—ostensibly touted as an alternative way for website owners to raise revenue. According to one early adopter, the revenue generated by his particular site was far lower than the revenue generated from ads. In fairness to Coinhive, it recommends being transparent with site visitors and that website owners notify users of the mining that will be taking place and, better still, offer users a way to opt in.

The first high-profile site to start using Coinhive mining was The Pirate Bay torrent website. The Pirate Bay has had a checkered history and, being a highly trafficked site global ranking with million visitors in the last six monthshas been looking for alternative ways to monetize its considerable traffic. Its initial attempts at browser mining were quickly spotted by users and they were not too happy about it.

At least in the case of The Pirate Bay, this was a case of the site's owners making a decision to use Coinhive. The Pirate Bay's initial attempts at browser mining were quickly spotted by users and they were not too happy about it. One of the Showtime sites affected was its content streaming site which has high traffic and user sessions are here are some even more details on bitcoin mining new block detected as visitors stay on the site while content is streaming.

Showtime is a premium-based service so it would seem strange that users are made to pay twice for content. The scripts were promptly removed after they were discovered, suggesting that they were planted there maliciously. Reports of many other sites using the Coinhive mining scripts soon followed. Over the Thanksgiving holiday in the U. As with Showtime, LiveHelpNow is already a legitimate revenue-generating business and there's no obvious reason as to why it would risk user confidence to earn a few extra bucks from users.

So the most likely scenario is that the server was compromised either by an outsider, or even an insider. There are many reasons why browser-based mining is back with a vengeance. Unlike in previous failed attempts, recent developments in the cryptocurrency and threat landscapes have made this a much more viable activity. Let's have a look at some of these factors in more detail:.

Privacy is important if you want to mine coins maliciously, in order to ensure others cannot easily follow the money trail back to you. Monero, which came to the market incan offer a high level of transaction privacy. Unlike with most other cryptocurrencies that use public transparent blockchains where transaction addresses can be easily viewed by anyone, Monero does things differently. By default, everything is private, including the amount in a transaction, who sent it, and who received it.

There is an option with which wallet owners can selectively reveal some information via what's called a view keybut this is not a feature that cyber criminals are likely to want to use. As mentioned earlier, Coinhive provides a very neat and easy-to-use package for people to get involved in Monero mining. All you have to do is add a few lines of script to your website code. You don't have to make website visitors download and install executable files. The Pirate Bay was soon followed by another high-profile site—this time Coinhive's miner was found on two of Showtime's websites.

With browser-based mining, the cost of mining is borne mostly by the website visitors through hardware wear and tear as well as energy costs. Scale is achieved by using high-traffic sites with sticky content. Coinhive currently pays 0. The user would have to spend 3, seconds on the site, or roughly 55 minutes, in order to achieve a million hashes. However, if you can get 3, users to spend approximately one second each on the site it would achieve a similar result.

Even under optimal conditions, the amount of hashes produced in each instance will be small, but when it comes to distributed computing power, it's all about scale and every little bit adds up. As we noted earlier, the value of mining rewards are not great, at least not initially. To get a better understanding, we need to look at the profitability of this activity over the longer term and take in the macroeconomic picture to get a true sense of the reward.

Here are some even more details on bitcoin mining new block detected value of here are some even more details on bitcoin mining new block detected like Monero here are some even more details on bitcoin mining new block detected going up dramatically.

Under these circumstances where the price of Monero can go up substantially in dollar terms over a relatively short time, mining Monero can become an attractive proposition.

A small amount of Monero mined today could potentially be worth a great deal more in a matter of months conversely it could also drop significantly depending on the health of the overall cryptocurrency economy. Mirroring the rising interest and price of cryptocurrency, we have also seen a big jump in our detections of both file- and browser-based cryptocurrency mining activity in recent months.

Malicious cryptocurrency mining isn't just confined to desktop computers and servers. Always-connected mobile devices are also a growing target.

We have even seen growth in coin mining on mobile phones in recent years. Inwe discovered 26 different Android apps that were mining cryptocurrencies. So far in we have found 35, which is around a 34 percent increase. But cryptocurrency mining is always an here are some even more details on bitcoin mining new block detected activity so the biggest problem facing mobile mining is of course battery drain as battery technology has not progressed as fast as processing power. Mobile mining will inevitably be noticed by the heat generated and the fast-draining battery, not to mention any performance impacts that it may also have on the device.

If we consider the cryptocurrency market as whole, we can see that just as the total value of cryptocurrencies increased manifold during the year, interest in malicious mining activity, both browser- and executable-based as indicated by detections of malicious mining activity, increased in tandem here are some even more details on bitcoin mining new block detected it.

As interest increases, more participants, both as miners and tool makers, join the fray. Coinhive, while being the best known at this time, doesn't have the market to itself.

Similar projects like Crypto Loot are cropping up, and other browser mining projects like JSEcoin have been in beta since August and are trying to generate growth in this activity. Symantec has observed a significant jump in all cryptocurrency mining activity in recent months as evidenced in our increasing detection rate See Figures 4 and 5.

Despite the genuine aspirations of most browser mining projects to offer a real and potentially better alternative to traditional web revenue generation methods, the sad reality is, it can and is being misused. Increasing user awareness and detection by security vendors will trigger a new arms race between cyber criminals and defenders.

We can expect to see adoption of a wide range of traditional malware propagation and evasion techniques to help spread and prolong mining activity in order to maximize profit. For as long as the current enabling factors are in place making it favorable for mining, we can expect to see interest in browser mining to be sustained or even increase in the short to medium term.

Symantec is keeping a watchful eye on the growing trend of browser mining. We are making adjustments as necessary to prevent unwanted cryptocurrency miners from stealing your computing resources to enrich others. Website owners should watch for injection of the browser-mining scripts into their website source code. Our network solutions can help you spot this in the network traffic as your server communicates with visitors. In addition, file system scans can also show up any files where the browser-based miner code has been here are some even more details on bitcoin mining new block detected, enabling you to identify and clean up the content.

Symantec helps prevent others from stealing your computing resources by protecting various stages of the attack chain:. All mining software, whether it is file- or browser-based, must be able to connect to either the cryptocurrency network or a mining pool to exchange data, in other words its proof-of-work. Without this connection, it cannot get the data it needs to generate hashes, rendering it useless. We can also block the mining scripts from being downloaded in the first instance.

Our network protection operates on our endpoint solutions as well as our gateway and cloud touch points; all these solutions help build a solid defense against unwanted mining activity. Here are some of the network protection signatures geared towards detection of browser-based mining:. Our endpoint solutions, including those for mobile devices, can detect and block all types of mining activity whether they are file-based or in-browser.

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Your computer—in collaboration with those of everyone else reading this post who clicked the button above—is racing thousands of others to unlock and claim the next batch. For as long as that counter above keeps climbing, your computer will keep running a bitcoin mining script and trying to get a piece of the action.

Your computer is not blasting through the cavernous depths of the internet in search of digital ore that can be fashioned into bitcoin bullion. The size of each batch of coins drops by half roughly every four years, and around , it will be cut to zero, capping the total number of bitcoins in circulation at 21 million.

But the analogy ends there. What bitcoin miners actually do could be better described as competitive bookkeeping. Miners build and maintain a gigantic public ledger containing a record of every bitcoin transaction in history. Every time somebody wants to send bitcoins to somebody else, the transfer has to be validated by miners: If the transfer checks out, miners add it to the ledger. Finally, to protect that ledger from getting hacked, miners seal it behind layers and layers of computational work—too much for a would-be fraudster to possibly complete.

Or rather, some miners are rewarded. Miners are all competing with each other to be first to approve a new batch of transactions and finish the computational work required to seal those transactions in the ledger. With each fresh batch, winner takes all. As the name implies, double spending is when somebody spends money more than once.

Traditional currencies avoid it through a combination of hard-to-mimic physical cash and trusted third parties—banks, credit-card providers, and services like PayPal—that process transactions and update account balances accordingly.

But bitcoin is completely digital, and it has no third parties. The idea of an overseeing body runs completely counter to its ethos. The solution is that public ledger with records of all transactions, known as the block chain. If she indeed has the right to send that money, the transfer gets approved and entered into the ledger.

Using a public ledger comes with some problems. The first is privacy. How can you make every bitcoin exchange completely transparent while keeping all bitcoin users completely anonymous? The second is security. If the ledger is totally public, how do you prevent people from fudging it for their own gain?

The ledger only keeps track of bitcoin transfers, not account balances. In a very real sense, there is no such thing as a bitcoin account. And that keeps users anonymous. Say Alice wants to transfer one bitcoin to Bob. That transaction record is sent to every bitcoin miner—i. Now, say Bob wants to pay Carol one bitcoin. Carol of course sets up an address and a key. And then Bob essentially takes the bitcoin Alice gave him and uses his address and key from that transfer to sign the bitcoin over to Carol:.

After validating the transfer, each miner will then send a message to all of the other miners, giving her blessing. The ledger tracks the coins, but it does not track people, at least not explicitly.

The first thing that bitcoin does to secure the ledger is decentralize it. There is no huge spreadsheet being stored on a server somewhere. There is no master document at all. Instead, the ledger is broken up into blocks: Every block includes a reference to the block that came before it, and you can follow the links backward from the most recent block to the very first block, when bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto conjured the first bitcoins into existence.

Every 10 minutes miners add a new block, growing the chain like an expanding pearl necklace. Generally speaking, every bitcoin miner has a copy of the entire block chain on her computer. If she shuts her computer down and stops mining for a while, when she starts back up, her machine will send a message to other miners requesting the blocks that were created in her absence. No one person or computer has responsibility for these block chain updates; no miner has special status.

The updates, like the authentication of new blocks, are provided by the network of bitcoin miners at large. Bitcoin also relies on cryptography. The computational problem is different for every block in the chain, and it involves a particular kind of algorithm called a hash function.

Like any function, a cryptographic hash function takes an input—a string of numbers and letters—and produces an output.

But there are three things that set cryptographic hash functions apart:. The hash function that bitcoin relies on—called SHA, and developed by the US National Security Agency—always produces a string that is 64 characters long. You could run your name through that hash function, or the entire King James Bible. Think of it like mixing paint. If you substitute light pink paint for regular pink paint in the example above, the result is still going to be pretty much the same purple , just a little lighter.

But with hashes, a slight variation in the input results in a completely different output:. The proof-of-work problem that miners have to solve involves taking a hash of the contents of the block that they are working on—all of the transactions, some meta-data like a timestamp , and the reference to the previous block—plus a random number called a nonce.

Their goal is to find a hash that has at least a certain number of leading zeroes. That constraint is what makes the problem more or less difficult. More leading zeroes means fewer possible solutions, and more time required to solve the problem. Every 2, blocks roughly two weeks , that difficulty is reset. If it took miners less than 10 minutes on average to solve those 2, blocks, then the difficulty is automatically increased. If it took longer, then the difficulty is decreased.

Miners search for an acceptable hash by choosing a nonce, running the hash function, and checking. When a miner is finally lucky enough to find a nonce that works, and wins the block, that nonce gets appended to the end of the block, along with the resulting hash. Her first step would be to go in and change the record for that transaction.

Then, because she had modified the block, she would have to solve a new proof-of-work problem—find a new nonce—and do all of that computational work, all over again.

Again, due to the unpredictable nature of hash functions, making the slightest change to the original block means starting the proof of work from scratch. But unless the hacker has more computing power at her disposal than all other bitcoin miners combined, she could never catch up. She would always be at least six blocks behind, and her alternative chain would obviously be a counterfeit.

She has to find a new one. The code that makes bitcoin mining possible is completely open-source, and developed by volunteers. But the force that really makes the entire machine go is pure capitalistic competition. Every miner right now is racing to solve the same block simultaneously, but only the winner will get the prize.

In a sense, everybody else was just burning electricity. Yet their presence in the network is critical. But it also solves another problem. It distributes new bitcoins in a relatively fair way—only those people who dedicate some effort to making bitcoin work get to enjoy the coins as they are created. But because mining is a competitive enterprise, miners have come up with ways to gain an edge. One obvious way is by pooling resources.

Your machine, right now, is actually working as part of a bitcoin mining collective that shares out the computational load. Your computer is not trying to solve the block, at least not immediately. It is chipping away at a cryptographic problem, using the input at the top of the screen and combining it with a nonce, then taking the hash to try to find a solution.

Solving that problem is a lot easier than solving the block itself, but doing so gets the pool closer to finding a winning nonce for the block.

And the pool pays its members in bitcoins for every one of these easier problems they solve. If you did find a solution, then your bounty would go to Quartz, not you. This whole time you have been mining for us! We just wanted to make the strange and complex world of bitcoin a little easier to understand. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the long pink string of numbers and letters in the interactive at the top is the target output hash your computer is trying to find by running the mining script.

In fact, it is one of the inputs that your computer feeds into the hash function, not the output it is looking for. Obsession Future of Finance. This item has been corrected.