Hackers are using virus-infected consumer computers to generate bitcoin, according to news from The Wall Street Journal. Unknowing users may be having their processing power commandeered to mine the virtual currency.
Cryptocurrencies need large computer networks to process transactions, and users are encouraged to join the network through the promise of newly minted digital currency. Computers that participate in the network are called miners. According to BitMiner data, an online mining group, a personal computer can mine one bitcoin in about 4.5 years of processing, the Wall Street Journal stated.
Hackers look for ways to best monetize the computers they compromise. Traditional avenues include stealing bank account credentials to sell on the dark web or installing destructive malware software.
Recent increases in the price of bitcoin and other blockchain-enabled currencies have given hackers another option. Their new tactic is injecting code that generates bitcoin onto cloud-computing servers and compromised websites. Visitors to those websites may be joining networks and mining cryptocurrency without even knowing it, the WSJ said.
“A lot of criminals are saying, ‘We’re OK with a lesser payout, so long as we stay safe and as long as the cash flow continues,’” said Andrei Barysevich, a Recorded Future researcher.
Security companies say that mining software has appeared on cloud-based internet servers administered by Aviva plc and Times Publishing Co., the WSJ reported, but that unwanted mining software increasingly has been appearing on personal computers as well. For instance, last May, Recorded Future Inc. researchers started noticing listings for bitcoin-generating malware on dark web forums. The 62 types of malware discovered by the firm were available for between $50 and $850.
“Most of this software was offered for sale in the past year,” said Barysevich. “So criminals are definitely taking notice of a spike in cryptocurrency values.”