The hackers who attacked Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) over New Year’s (injecting malicious code into email ads) were using their victims’ computers to mine Bitcoins, reports Lance Whitney for CNET, in a development that was probably inevitable. Hackers, like most other criminals, don’t just want to sow havoc and break things, they’re trying to turn a profit one way or another. Identity theft is probably the biggest boogieman, but botnets that flood the internet with spam are at least as big of a problem. Now that serious money can be made selling Bitcoins, hijacking processing power for Bitcoin mining may become a common occurrence.
Bitcoin mining monetizes processing power
One of the features that sets the crypto-currency apart is that new Bitcoins are generated by solving a complicated mathematical problem that scales according to how much processing power is getting thrown at it. No one has the authority to ‘print’ money, and the more processing power under your control the more likely you are to get the next block of 25 Bitcoins. When Bitcoins were worth $1 or less, the competition was between enthusiasts with souped-up computers, but now that there is about $2500 up for grabs every ten minutes the stakes are significantly higher.
On the other hand, spam is becoming less profitable simply because spam filters are becoming more effective. Depending on what email service you use, and what kinds of websites you give your information to, you may already think that spam is a thing of the past. Cybercriminals need a new way to monetize the processing power they control, and Bitcoins (or other digital currencies) offer a straightforward way of doing that.
Yahoo: Malware does not meet editorial guidelines
“On Friday, January 3 on our European sites, we served some advertisements that did not meet our editorial guidelines, specifically they spread malware. We promptly removed these advertisements. Users in North America, Asia Pacific and Latin America were not served these advertisements and were not affected. Additionally, users using Macs and mobile devices were not affected,” Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) said in a statement.
It’s good to know that spreading malware is against the company’s editorial guidelines, but in recent months Yahoo email users have had to deal with a series of outages and lost emails recently, so a round of viruses can’t be going over well.