04 May 2017

Have you ever looked at America’s debt clock? Take a seat before you do, because it’s the type of horror that you can’t put into words. The basic idea behind governments issuing money is that a government has assets worth a certain amount. They print and issue money that represents the same value of a piece of those assets.

At least that’s how it used to be, because now governments are spending themselves silly and currency doesn’t mean what it used to because of massive debts and digital assets like stocks or bonds. So how does a company like Bitcoin issue currency since it’s not a government? Keep reading to find out how and how cybercriminals are taking advantage of the system using everyday people’s computers.

Blockchain is the foundation of the Bitcoin system. Basically, every transaction that takes place on bitcoin is recorded as a block, which is then added to a chain of blocks. But the piece of the Blockchain puzzle that makes the whole thing fit together are the hash numbers.

Each block gets a hash number that is unique and based off the previous block in the chain, but figuring out those hash numbers isn’t as simple as 1,2,3. In fact, it’s so difficult that Bitcoin issues its currency as a reward to the people who figure out the numbers, aka Bitcoin Miners.

For the block to fit into the chain, the hash number must have the right amount of zeros and the calculations needed to produce a hash have a very low probability of producing zeros. That means it takes several attempts before a proper hash is produced. After their block has been verified to fit into the chain, the bitcoin miner is given bitcoins that equal real world currency.

That’s the basic idea, but of course people have created ways to tip the system in their favor. There are computer programs that can run the calculations much faster than a person ever can, which means more money for miners.

And that’s where hackers come in.

Just like a ransomware attack, hackers will lock a user out of their computer. But instead of encrypting their data, the hackers will simply keep the computer locked by password for as long as they can and use it to run the calculations that earn them bitcoins. So while you’re unable to use your computer to do your job, people down the street or on the other side of the world will be using it to earn a living.

So what can you do to prevent your computer from being turned into a bitcoin mining machine? Of course common sense measures like not clicking on attachments from strangers are strong passwords always apply. But another step you can take to prevent this particular type of attack is by changing the ports your computer connects to the Internet with. Hackers can scan for devices using the most common ports used by devices. If you change the ports your device uses, not only will hackers have a harder time finding your device but if they do they will have an incentive to go after another device that connected to common ports because it will show that you take your cybersecurity seriously.

That’s the value of taking the time to read up on cybersecurity. With one simple change you can separate yourself from the uninformed and make yourself a much less attractive target to hackers. Now you get to choose. Will you stay posted for all the latest cybersecurity trends and happenings? Or let yourself become a part of the helpless crowd of people who have no idea how to defend themselves?

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