The total value of all cryptocurrency assets in the world is measured in trillions. With new cryptocurrencies popping up left and right, it’s expected only to increase in the coming years.
On the other hand, the anonymity crypto grants has made it very attractive to cybercriminals, who are always coming up with fresh ways to exploit vulnerabilities in consumer devices and generate money. Unsurprisingly, this includes smartphones.
What Is Cryptojacking? How Does It Work on Smartphones?
Cryptojacking is a type of cyberattack that involves a threat actor hijacking a target’s device with the goal of using it to mine cryptocurrency. In such an attack, the computing power of your device is used without your knowledge or consent to solve cryptographic equations, thus generating crypto for somebody else.
Today’s smartphones are more powerful than supercomputers were just 10 years ago, so they can definitely be used to mine crypto. Naturally, this has made them a prime target of cryptojacking attacks.
Both Android and iOS smartphones can be used to mine crypto. However, it is important to note that Android devices are far more vulnerable to all types of cyberattacks than iPhones, especially iPhones that have not been jailbroken.
But how do cryptojackers spread on mobile devices, which are usually more resistant to malware than desktop computers?
Your smartphone can be infected with a cryptojacker in a number of ways, but more often than not this happens when you download files from unverified sources. For example, when you download a file from a random website, as opposed to using a proper app store.
With that said, even legitimate apps can be abused by cybercriminals. If they are able to penetrate an app, they can inject malicious code into it and use it to deploy all kinds of malware, including cryptojacking malware. Of course, malicious mining code can also be inserted into a website or an online advertisement, hide behind phishing links, and such.
Once a cryptojacker is on your smartphone, it will use its power to mine cryptocurrency in the background. And it would most likely mine Monero, a cryptocurrency that is known for its privacy features an incredibly difficult to trace. For example, when the superhero movie Spider-Man: No Way Home came out in 2021, a threat actor deployed what appeared to be a torrent file of the film, but was actually a Monero miner.
5 Signs Your Smartphone Is Infected With Crypto Malware
Crypto malware will affect your smartphone in different ways, damage its hardware, and possibly result in the device breaking down entirely. The good news is, it’s very easy to tell if your smartphone is being used to mine cryptocurrency. Here are five red flags and warning signs to look out for.
1. It Is Heating Up
Is your phone heating up faster than usual? Does it feel unusually hot on your hand, even when you’re not using apps that consume a lot of power? Does it remain hot even if you put it down for a while? If the answer to these questions is yes, then there’s a good chance your device is being used to mine crypto.
2. The Battery Life Is Shorter
If you find yourself charging your smartphone more often than you typically do because the battery life is much shorter than it used to be, there is definitely an issue with it. And yes, the issue might be crypto malware.
3. The Interface Is Stuttering
Is the interface on your smartphone stuttering and lagging, even when you try to do simple tasks like set the alarm or change the settings? That’s another red flag and potentially a sign there is a cryptojacker on your phone.
4. Apps Are Lagging and Crashing
Another sign that your smartphone is infected with cryptojacking malware is apps being unresponsive, freezing, lagging, or crashing frequently—this happens because crypto miners eat up all the CPU power.
5. The Keyboard Is Acting Up
This may sound strange, but keyboard issues are often a sign of a malware infection of some kind. So if your keyboard is taking a long time to appear, or you notice strange typing lags, you might have a crypto miner on your phone.
In general, any sudden changes in your smartphone’s behavior are a reliable sign that something is very wrong. A combination of overheating, lags, crashes, and similar malfunctions is often a result of cryptojacking. But there are steps you can take to prevent this from happening.
How to Prevent Mobile Cryptojacking
For a start, you should only download apps from regulated marketplaces like Google Play and the App Store. And even if you do, you need to be careful and do a bit of research before downloading an app. This includes taking basic precautions, like reading the reviews and googling the company behind the product.
Secondly, never click on a link that came from an unknown email address, even it seems legitimate. And whenever you’re not completely sure, test it with a link checker tool—there are plenty to choose from.
It is obviously important to regularly update your operating system and patch vulnerabilities, but you can further enhance malware protection with security apps, and ditch your mainstream browser for a more secure and private alternative.
And if you happen to download a cryptojacker, make sure you react as soon as possible. The first thing you should do is try removing the malware manually, or with your security software. If that fails, consider doing a factory reset. Keep in mind, however, that this is a complete software restore, and you will lose access to all data on your phone, unless it is backed up somewhere. That should definitely be your last resort.
Boost Your Smartphone’s Security to Fend Off Attacks
Cryptojacking malware will remain a threat for a long time to come. And that makes perfect sense, because the more powerful smartphones are, the more crypto they can mine, and the more common these attacks will be.
Evidently, securing your smartphone has never been more important. But there are many ways to do just that, and there are plenty of free apps that can make the whole process painless.