Updates January 2021.
Way back in 2009, the very first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, debuted. Cryptocurrencies are digital currency that exist without a government to back them; for many users, the value of cryptocurrency is the fact they allow users to make transitions completely anonymously. Right now, the going rate for one Bitcoin fluctuates daily, but has reached as high as $42,000 American for one Bitcoin, which would seem to put the entire issue out of reach for ordinary people living ordinary lives.
But not so fast. It turns out that cryptocurrencies are impacting ordinary people, including you and your customers. Cryptocurrencies are dependent on a technology called blockchain, which tracks transactions. Blockchain technology uses very powerful encryption to keep this record secure and secret, and that’s where things start to go right off the rails.
You see, powerful encryption doesn’t just happen. Powerful encryption is created by performing mathematical calculations in quantities large enough to make anyone’s eyes cross. Every time the calculation is performed, the cryptocurrency pays the person performing it a very, very small payment. This is known as cryptocurrency mining.
The problem with cryptocurrency mining is that it requires a tremendous amount of computer processing power. If you’ve got the resources, the legitimate way to get into cryptocurrency mining on a significant scale is to build a server farm or access cloud-based servers; neither option is particularly affordable and there are a lot of would-be cryptocurrency miners out there.
There’s always a shady way to do things, and that’s true for cryptocurrency mining. Hackers have developed a number of ways to use a website’s visitors’ computing power to expand their cryptocurrency mining operations. This involves hidden scripts that are triggered any time a website visitor watches a video, views an advertisement, downloads a file, plays a game, or fills out a recaptcha in order to access additional content. This slows down the visitors’ computer, sometimes very noticeably.
Websites that are built using WordPress – the open source software that runs about 35% of the whole Internet – are particularly vulnerable. WordPress has continually and actively been taking steps to combat cryptocurrency mining, but it’s like an arms race: the minute they address one issue, the hackers come back with a new attack.
If you are operating a business, having a cryptocurrency mining exploit on your website can have serious repercussions. Visitors who realize what is going on will quickly leave your site and it is doubtful they will ever return. Visitors who don’t understand what’s going on maybe frustrated as their computer slows down and they have a difficult time shopping your site. The impact on your sales numbers and business reputation will be very negative.
If you believe that your business website has been affected by cryptocurrency miners, we can help you fix that. More important is the discussion regarding using open source software like WordPress to operate your business website. While WordPress has the advantage of being free, its popularity has made it the target of choice of cryptocurrency miners and other hackers. Switching to a proprietary platform does come with a cost, but it can make you less of an attractive target to hackers who are trying to get rich at your customers’ expense.