When shopping for VPNs, you may occasionally come across a service claiming to be an anti-mining VPN. What is an anti-mining VPN, though, and is it an important criterion when considering a purchase?
What Does “Anti-Mining” Mean in VPNs?
Anti-mining VPNs are VPNs that claim to be able to prevent third parties from using your computer to mine cryptocurrency. It’s a fairly common problem, though less so in 2023 now that the price of crypto has sunk. In any case, how VPNs can actually help to combat the problem is in question due to the way in which both mining and VPNs work.
To clear that up, let’s take a look at mining. Crypto mining is the only way in which anybody can get their hands on so-called “proof-of-work” coins, cryptocurrencies that require you to solve complex equations to mint new cryptocoins. We go over more detail in our article on how crypto mining works, but the short version is that the more coins of a particular cryptocurrency are in circulation, the more complex the equations to get more of it.
As a result, you need more and more powerful computers to solve these equations. For example, when Bitcoin first came out you could have mined new blocks with a lower-end laptop. Now that it’s been around a while, you probably need racks upon racks of processors to crack the next block and strike it rich.
This has led to a bit of an arms race, with people buying up more and more GPUs and CPUs to be able to compete. GPUs are especially sought after thanks to their ability to perform many actions at once. Over the past few years, their price has shot up as cryptominers bought up the market—though their price has plummeted since the crypto winter started.
Cryptojacking and Other Offenses
This massive rise in prices of GPUs brought about a bit of a crime wave as gangs worldwide expanded on what they were willing to do to get their hands on ever more GPUs. The things were stolen off the factory floor, warehouses were burglarized and there were even armed robberies.
However, clever criminals didn’t just steal GPUs, they also figured out pretty quickly that you could infiltrate somebody’s computer and have that machine run part of the equation-solving algorithm for the gang. Called cryptojacking, it has become a bit of a worldwide problem plaguing millions of people.
How it works is that the gang will phish an unsuspecting victim by sending them an email with a suspicious link, the victim will press the link and will have some malware surreptitiously installed on their device. Unbeknownst to the victim, the malware program will start running in the background, lending the device’s computing power to the criminals efforts to mine crypto.
Though it may not seem like a massive issue, it can lead to some serious problems. For one, the malware is gobbling up a lot of your processing power and internet bandwidth, slowing down your computer considerably. At the same time, it also lowers your device’s life expectancy as it runs your processor and GPU ragged.
How Can Anti-Mining VPNs Help Fight Cryptojacking?
As a result, you really want to make sure that you don’t have this kind of mining malware on your devices. Thankfully, there is plenty of anti-mining software out there that’s tailor-made to prevent cryptojacking.
Among the programs that claim to be able to combat cryptojacking and other forms of non-consensual crypto-mining are VPNs, with several claiming to be anti-mining VPNs that can prevent you from falling victim to cryptojackers. Of these, Urban VPN is probably the most vocal, with an entire web page dedicated to explaining how VPNs can prevent your computer being taken over.
Do Anti-Mining VPNs Work?
However, there is one small issue with anti-mining VPNs: it’s a little unclear how exactly they would deter surreptitious crypto mining. If you read Urban VPN’s page above, you’ll quickly realize that while it claims it can protect you from crypto mining, it at no point explains exactly how this would work.
The reason for this is simple: VPNs can’t help you against cryptojacking. It becomes clear why when you learn how a VPN works. VPNs reroute your connection through a server in a separate remote location, making it appear like you’re there rather than your home or office. At the same time, a VPN also encrypts your connection, making it so nobody can track your online activity back to you.
VPNs are pretty nifty, but they can’t help much with malware, which is usually downloaded by you—usually after being phished—and lives on your hard drive, sending and receiving information to its makers. VPNs can’t influence this, and malware will work just fine even when a connection is encrypted.
What Can I Use to Fight Cryptojacking?
As a result, a VPN is pretty much useless in preventing your computer from being enslaved into a mining network. Instead, you should use software that blocks cryptocurrency miners—like antivirus software or specialized browser extensions—and check out our tips on what to do when you receive a phishing email.
If your VPN provider has some of these tools already in its arsenal, that’s of course perfectly fine, but be wary of any service that claims to be an anti-mining VPN without having anti-malware tools. Instead, we recommend that you use some of the best antivirus software in conjunction with a good VPN service and put up a real fight against anybody looking to take over your computer.
- › How to Block Cryptocurrency Miners in Your Web Browser
- › What Is Cryptojacking, and How Can You Protect Yourself?
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