Maybe it’s a sign of the Bitcoin bubble. Criminals are trying to take control of PCs and turn them into Bitcoin miners.
According to antivirus seller Kaspersky Lab, there’s a new Trojan — spotted just yesterday and spreading via Skype — that takes control of infected machines and forces them to do known as Bitcoin mining, a way of earning digital currency.
The Bitcoin digital currency system rewards miners (in Bitcoins, natch) for their number-crunching work, which is essential to keeping the anonymous Bitcoin currency system working. With the Trojan, hackers are forcing others’ machines to earn them money, and it can really put a strain on these machines. Victims might notice that their CPU usage shoots sky high.
Yesterday, the Trojan was spreading via Skype messages. In one Spanish message obtained by Kaspersky, the Trojan was supposed to be a “favorite” picture of the victim.
About two thousand people per hour were clicking on the website hosting the Trojan software, Kaspersky said. “Most of potential victims live in Italy then Russia, Poland, Costa Rica, Spain, Germany, Ukraine and others,” Kaspersky Researcher Dmitry Bestuzhev wrote in a blog post.
Once computer criminals have tricked you into downloading a Trojan, they have control of your computer, and there are a lot of things they could do. And the Trojan isn’t only used for Bitcoin mining, Kaspersky says.
This isn’t the first time a Bitcoin mining Trojan has popped up, and malicious software that flat-out steals bitcoins has been around for years. Two years ago, Symantec spotted a Trojan — called Badminer — that sniffed out graphical processing units and used them to crank out bitcoins.
A regular PC wouldn’t be able to do much Bitcoin mining on its own, but hackers could pretty easily register a group of compromised computers with a specific Bitcoin mining pool and point all of the systems there, according to Charlie Shrem, the founder of Bitcoin payment processor Bitinstant. “If he infiltrates a million computers, then it will pay off,” he said in an email message.
Bitcoins have been on a price surge lately. Right now, they’re trading at about $140, about ten times their value at the end of last year.
Maybe that makes mining a little more attractive to the bad guys.