Cyber-Criminals Putting Botnets to Work on Bitcoin Mining
The market for bitcoins—a virtual currency secured by hard cryptographic problems—fluctuates as cyber-criminals attack the largest online bitcoin exchange.As a digital currency based on tough math problems, bitcoins have mostly remained a form of underground cash used by technically savvy consumers of questionable goods. Over the past year, however, interest in the currency has exploded, as the digital money has gained adherents. The currency's popularity has particularly taken off in the past month, with the value of a bitcoin jumped to more than $200, from less than $20 at the beginning of the year. The currency’s has not only attracted a handful of startups focused on serving bitcoin consumers, but naturally the criminal element as well. In March and April, for example, Mt.Gox—the most popular exchange for turning bitcoins into more real currencies—has been suffering a distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS), causing intermittent outages.
While the power of the ZeroAccess botnet—even with millions of infected computers—is less than some of the specialized bitcoin mining hardware platforms, the botnet is likely successfully mining bitcoins. And, since the operators of ZeroAccess do not have pay the cost of the electricity needed to run the botnet, the activity is profitable, Richard Henderson, security strategist with Fortinet, told eWEEK."The logic dictates that they wouldn't be doing it unless they were generating a lot of bitcoins," he said. "They are probably just sitting on their bitcoins. Will they cash out? It's impossible to say." While the value of bitcoins has crashed in the past week, dropping to less than $100 on April 12, the currency is sustainable in the long term, says Errata's Graham. "There is always a desire for underground currency and that means there will always be some value to bitcoins," he said.