Dumb-as-a-post Bitcoin-mining malware has appeared – bringing further proof that the virtual currency's hyperbolic trajectory is attracting the sort of late-to-the-party shady speculator that telegraphs a jarring fall.
The malware is currently spreading through a wide-ranging link poisoning campaign being run on Skype, a Kaspersky researcher wrote on Thursday. It is not the first Bitcoin-mining malware that has been detected, but its arrival coincides with a period of intense interest in the currency.
Those who click the links are infected with a virus dropper downloaded from a server in India. Once the machine is infected, many other pieces of malware are sent to the computer from Hotfile.com. The malware concurrently connects with a command-and-control server in Germany.
"So what does malware do? To be honest many things, but one of the most interesting is it turns the infected machine to a slave of the Bitcoin generator," Kaspersky Labs researcher Dmitry Bestuzhev wrote. "The usage of CPU grows up significantly."
The dropper is detected by Kapersky as "Trojan.Win32.Jorik.IRCbot.xkt," he wrote.
Bitcoin is a virtual currency whose supply is algorithmically limited. Bitcoins are created not through a central monetary agency as with traditional currencies, but by computers performing the many CPU-intensive crypto calculations that make the Bitcoin blockchain – the transaction record that lets people have confidence that Bitcoins aren't being used multiple times, and the supposedly solid fiscal machinery upon which the whole currency rests.
The malware detected by Kaspersky enslaves user computers and forces their CPUs to work on the blockchain, with the
script kiddies hackers hoping for a Bitcoin payoff.
"Bitcoin mining is the process of making computer hardware do mathematical calculations for the Bitcoin network to confirm transactions and increase security," the official Bitcoin website reads. "As a reward for their services, Bitcoin miners can collect transaction fees for the transactions they confirm along with newly created bitcoins."
This is all very tricky, so a key sign of your computer being infected is if a process named "bitcoin-miner.exe -a 60 -l no -o http://suppp.cantvenlinea.biz:1942/ -u XXXXXX0000001@gmail.com -p XXXXXXXX" is consuming the overwhelming proportion of your machine's available CPU, Bestuzhev wrote.
The malware has the fingerprints of script kids, rather than sophisticated hackers, and its appearance can be taken as another sign of a dangerous hypegasm forming around the currency as its valuation soars. At the time we hit the big red Publish button, a single Bitcoin was worth $132, having fallen back from a record high of $147. Just last week the currency was at $75, and at the start of this year it was trading at a piddling $20.
Though the value of Bitcoin with respect to the world's traditional currencies has risen dramatically, there hasn't exactly been a boom in the amount of places that actually accept it – some companies and services are getting good headlines by saying they accept Bitcoin, but you can't walk out to the local newsagent and buy milk with it... yet. ®
Many analysts are scratching their heads as to why a hard-to-trace currency that cannot be devalued by profligate "monetary easing" (that's printing money to you and me) is doing well at a time when all the Western nations are vigorously inflating their own currencies to try and spend their way out of an ongoing financial apocalypse. We can hazard a few guesses...