Cryptocurrency Mining Software Is Secretly Churning On Half A Billion PCs Worldwide
All statistics are notable in their own right, but once in a while, one comes along that seems downright mind-boggling. Take this one: 500 million people are currently affected by unauthorized cryptocurrency mining. Remember when pop-up ads were the biggest offense? That's child's play. If you run into a website running a mining script, you'll be paying real money by way of a higher power bill.
AdGuard, a company specializing in blocking unwanted scripts from websites, has just released a report on its research which includes the 500 million stat above. That's far from being the only interesting stat, however. 220 of the top 100,000 websites (per Amazon's Alexa ranking system) currently have a mining script lingering in the background. While that's a meager 0.22% of that total, it takes a good amount of traffic to break into the top 100K, so these are not small websites.
Where the realization can really hit hard is when you realize that any website in this top 100K that successfully deploys a miner can stand to earn thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars in just a few weeks. In its research, AdGuard discovered three different mining apps running on these sites, including JSEcoin, CryptoLoot, and MineMyTraffic.
If there's any good news in any of this, it's the fact that of those websites that are guilty, most of them are exactly the kinds of websites you'd expect to see such shadiness on. That includes sites offering downloads for TV and movies, torrent sites, and also adult sites. Within the 57% of sites that use in-browser mining, only 7.73% belong to news websites; the rest of that 57% belong to those other sites.
What's actually scary is the fact that it seems like most of these miners were deployed on purpose. It was just a few weeks ago when The Pirate Bay was found deploying a Monero miner on its site, and not long after, ShowTime's streaming site was found to be running the same thing. Ditto for Politifact.
It should be made clear that just because these sites had miners installed, it doesn't mean that it was endorsed by its owners. In some cases, it could be an enterprising employee deciding to capitalize on the traffic they have access to.
Since AdGuard sells its own code-blocking solution, it of course holds great interest in getting this information out there. It also recommends using antivirus programs, and if you want to be really safe, you could install three different mining blocking extensions. Ideally, companies like Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla will add automatic blockers to their respective browsers, just like some have done with Flash. If an extension can be developed to block miners from working, then the capabilities can certainly be added to the browser itself.