Crypto-mining can slow down devices, run up electric bill

An ABC7 I-Team Exclusive

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Friday, February 16, 2018
Crypto-mining can slow down devices, run up electric bill
The I-Team is investigating crypto-mining and how it can affect you - and even your electric bill.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Could your computer or device be running slower on certain websites?

The I-Team is investigating crypto-mining and how it can affect you - and even your electric bill.

You may not know it is happening, but according to technology experts, some companies are making money without ads - just by you being on their website. It's called "crypto-mining," but experts say it can cost you time, battery life and money.

Some websites are now using crypto-mining as a legal alternative to advertisements or pop ups. Crypto-mining is when a website is tracking your use to make electronic money by using your computer's memory.

But tech security experts at Chicago's Trustwave are sounding off a warning to consumers and businesses.

"What we're seeing in that crypto jacking can actual raise the individual users electric bill to $3 to $5 a month just by visiting a website that is using this crypto mining. And that may not seem like a lot, but when we're talking about large organizations or large enterprises that have maybe have 100s to 1000s of computers, each one of them, if they hit a crypto jacking website, that can really add up a lot," said Karl Sigler, of Trustwave.

Experts also say it can drain batteries on phones and computers and slow them down.

"So what happens when you visit a website, there's a little piece of code in the background that actually steals your CTU processing power in order to create this digital currency for whowever owns the website," Sigler said. "This is used as an alternative to advertising revenue for a website. The potential problem with that is that it is not transparent to the user. The user does not know it Is happening. It's all going on in the background. We've actually seeing it cause problem with individual devices."

The I-Team reached out to several crypto companies. Several told us that it is a great alternative to users seeing "annoying" pop up ads and that they do discourage websites to not "mine" at 100 percent, because that limits the use of a consumer's central processing unit.

One Of The Largest Companies, Coinhive, said: "We believe that in-browser mining could become a viable alternative to micro payments, where users pay with their CPU time and electricity in exchange for contents or services. Website owners are quickly learning how to use the miner without annoying their users."

Coinhive and other services we spoke with also say they are starting to ask users for consent before mining. The I-Team also found that users can stop mining on their browsers, using plugins like No Coin.

"Those plugins actually block that from occurring, so there are some things organizations and individual users can do. I definitely recommend looking for whatever browser you use for the plugins sort of enhancements for the web browsers that allow you to block this type of activity. But you know, in the end, it's a little bit of a wack-a-mole game because as these plugins get better at blocking crypto mining, the people doing the crypto mining are getting better at hiding their activity from the user," Sigler said.

Trustwave says while crypto-mining companies encourage websites to properly use - and not abuse - the technology, those are just recommendations. If a website wants to, it can legally jack up the crypto mining to 100 percent, which would slow down your surfing and cost you on your electric bill, or drain your battery.

More tips on how to block crypto-mining:

Trustwave Blog on topic