Covert Cryptocurrency Miners Quickly Become A Major Problem
from the lessons-unlearned dept
As websites increasingly struggle to keep the lights on in the age of ad blockers, a growing number of sites have increasingly turned to bitcoin miners like Coinhive. Such miners covertly use visitor CPU cycles to mind cryptocurrency while a user is visiting a website, and actively market themselves as a creative alternative to the traditional advertising model. And while this is certainly a creative revenue generator, these miners are increasingly being foisted upon consumers without informing them or providing an opt out. Given the miners consume user CPU cycles and a modest amount of power — that’s a problem.
The Pirate Bay was forced to disable its bitcoin miner back in September, after users complained it was eating up to 90% of their available CPU cycles. Showtime was similarly caught using a bitcoin miner on two of its domains, and has yet to provide any detail on why it launched the miners or refused to inform visitors they were running. More recently, Trend Micro unveiled that at least two Android apps — downloaded up to 50,000 times from the Google Play store — were covertly putting crypto miners inside a hidden browser window:
The explosion in bitcoin miners is both above and below board. There’s indication that the bitcoin miners running on Showtime’s domains were the result of a website hack. More recently, researchers from security firm Sucuri discovered that at least 500 websites running WordPress had been hacked, and that other publishing platforms including Magento, Joomla, and Drupal were also being consistently abused. Reddit users this week documented how Choice Hotels (owner of Comfort Inn) websites have also been compromised with cryptocurrency miners the company itself seems oblivious to.
Political fact-checking website PolitiFact also recently acknowledged it was hacked by intruders who installed bitcoin miners that quickly gobbled up visitors’ CPU cycles without permission:
— Bad Packets Report (@bad_packets) October 13, 2017
Not too surprisingly, security firms like Malwarebytes have started blocking the miners:
And while these tools help some with malicious installs and hacks, plenty of websites still appear to think it’s a good idea to run the miners without notifying users or providing a functioning opt out. Which means there are plenty of folks busy trying to combat the rise of ad blockers — by engaging in the exact same behavior that caused the rise of ad blockers in the first place.