(screenshot, Fox News)
(screenshot, Fox News)
  • Hackers are increasingly using South Africans’ cellphones to mine cryptocurrencies, a cybersecurity expert believes.
  • An infected device tends to be much slower, uses a lot of battery power, overheats or data usage may skyrocket.
  • Cryptocurrency-related attacks on personal devices increased by 83% in 2018.

Cryptocurrency-related crime is on the increase in South Africa, with hackers using people’s phones to mine cryptocurrencies, Riaan Badenhorst, managing director of cybersecurity experts Kaspersky Lab Africa, said.

Cryptocurrencies is a new way to make payments over the internet, where thousands of computers around the world work together to make transactions and track ownership of digital currencies like Bitcoin. It can be transferred digitally and directly from person to person without going through a bank.

Cryptocurrencies can be created by highly powered computers solving a series of riddles, called mining, which requires a considerable amount of computing power.

Badenhorst said hackers can use malware to mine cryptocurrencies on people’s personal devices such as computers or cellphone.

In June, the website of the now-defunct The New Age newspaper was found to mine cryptocurrencies in the background when users accessed the webpage.

A infected device tends to be much slower, uses a lot of battery power, overheats or data usage may skyrocket, Badenhorst told Business Insider South Africa.

He suggested that people who suspect that their devices are affected update software regularly, which improves security. They should also refrain from downloading software from unknown sources.   

Also read: I only spend R17 on cellphone data a month – here's how I do it

Marius Reitz, South Africa country manager for cryptocurrency wallet Luno, said while cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have been used for illicit activity, the situation is improving as law enforcement agencies become better at tracing transactions.  

He said all Bitcoin transactions, for example, are stored in a very large general ledger called blockchain which is accessible for anyone to see.

The most common form in which cryptocurrency scams take place is through phishing, Reitz said. 

"Phishing is an attack whereby criminals use a legitimate-looking (but fake) website, email or SMS to trick you into providing your password or details," Reitz told Business Insider South Africa. 

"They then use your password to access your account and steal your money." 

For more, go to Business Insider South Africa.

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