Gaming Network Plants Bitcoin Miner On User Systems
A few weeks ago, we noted that we believed it was likely that Bitcoin miners using GPUs might become part of the threat landscape. It appears that that has happened, in a somewhat roundabout way.
The e-sports league ESEA was recently forced to admit that an employee had, without authorization, pushed a Bitcoin miner to users and forced the client machines to mine coins – for his own gain. They claim that the code to do so was born out of internal tests to see if this could be added as a feature to their software clients. ESEA themselves described the affair as a “fiasco“.
By itself, this would be interesting enough. A legitimate software service was used to push unauthorized software to the machines of end users, much like what happened in Korea recently. However, the payload itself was unusual too: it was a Bitcoin miner, but one that was capable of harnessing the GPUs of users.
This incident may well have been the first that did use GPUs, but we doubt it will be the last. The losses to users may not have been that large, but they were real nonetheless: increased energy usage and wear and tear on their computers. In addition, affected users will also see increased bandwidth usage as effective miners use a noticeable stream of bandwidth.
Gamers may be wise to pay particular attention to signs of heavy GPU load on their system in the absence of any gaming activity. These can include excessive levels of heat or noise from their system, as well as poor performance in games. The control panels provided by AMD and nVidia can also be used to check the load on GPUs – under normal, non-gaming circumstances, GPUs should not be heavily loaded.