Is your computer mining Bitcoin secretly?

FILTHY LUCRE? Malwarebytes has found an application that turns computers into machines that mine Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency that has been given physical form (above) by enthusiast Mike Caldwell.


    Dec 04, 2013

    Is your computer mining Bitcoin secretly?

    IF YOU'VE noticed that your computer has become slow and sluggish over recent weeks, or that it's overheating and commands are timing out, it could just be that it needs a thorough cleanup.

    But it could also be that a toolbar extension, app or plug-in is using your computer's resources for more nefarious purposes, AFP Relaxnews reported.

    Security-software firm Malwarebytes has discovered at least one application - a free Wi-Fi proxy utility - that is doing just that.

    It is turning computers into Bitcoin-mining machines. The mining is, technically speaking, legal, as the disclosure of this feature is buried away in the small print of the end-user licence agreement (EULA).

    In fact, the EULA says: "As part of downloading a Mutual Public, your computer may do mathematical calculations for our affiliated networks to confirm transactions and increase security. Any rewards or fees collected by We Build Toolbars (WBT) or our affiliates are the sole property of WBT and our affiliates."

    In other words, by installing the extension, you are agreeing to mine Bitcoins and any profits made go to them.

    Bitcoin mining is the term used to describe the mathematical calculations and other processes required to maintain the cryptocurrency.

    When Bitcoin was first created, computer programmers could earn or "mint" Bitcoins by performing these tasks on their PCs, essentially giving up their processors to help run the system.

    However, as Bitcoin continues to grow, so does the processing power required to create just a fraction of a new "coin". It is now much more than a typical computer can manage.

    In order to continue earning Bitcoins and to keep the system running, groups of computers working together are now needed, resulting in less-than-honest companies looking to hijack as many processors as possible via malware or potentially unwanted programs, such as this app.

    And - as the real-world value of Bitcoin continues to climb, it hit US$1,000 (S$1,260) last month - such hijackings are going to become more widespread.

    So, avoid clicking on offers of software or browser extensions that appear in advertising around search results, and ensure that all virus programs are up to date and running at full speed.

    Likewise, make sure that the most recent version of an Internet browser is installed and that any operating-system patches have been downloaded.