Feeds

Malware mints virtual currency using victim's GPU

Bitcoin mining meets parallel computing

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Security researchers have unearthed a piece of malware that mints a digital currency known as Bitcoins by harnessing the immense power of an infected machine's graphical processing units.

According to new research from antivirus provider Symantec, Trojan.Badminer uses GPUs to generate virtual coins through a practice known as minting. That's the term for solving difficult cryptographic proof-of-work problems and being rewarded with 50 Bitcoins for each per correct block.

General purpose GPUs far outstrip CPUs at performing math calculations and can do so in massively parallel software threads, making them a superior platform for trying huge numbers of possible keys needed to solve the Bitcoin problems.

“This makes the idea of GPGPU extremely attractive for the purpose of bitcoin mining, brute force hash attacks against password databases, and folding (the processing of simulating protein folding, a project initiated by Stanford University known as Folding@home),” Symantec researcher Poul Jensen wrote in a post published Tuesday.

An infected computer that contains an AMD Radeon 6990 CPU could process about 758.82 million cryptographic hashes per second, he wrote. That's a far cry from an Intel's Atom N270 netbook CPU, which is capable of handling just 1.19 Mhash/s. Rob Graham, CEO of the firm Errata Security, recently published a thought-provoking post that analyzed the economics of password cracking and Bitcoin-mining using a variety of GPU hardware.

In the event an infected machine has no GPU card, Trojan.Badminer will make do with the CPU.

GPU use could go a long way to solving a problem that has vexed malware developers who want to use other people's computers to mine Bitcoins. As fellow Symantec researcher Peter Coogan surmised in June, a botnet of 100,000 machines that worked on a problem continuously would earn just $97,000 a month. That's a paltry amount compared to other botnet enterprises, such as stealing online banking credentials.

“With the advent of Trojan.Badminer and common usage of fast graphics cards, it may well begin to make economic sense to rent botnets in order to carry out distributed bitcoin mining and run the process on an industrial scale,” Jensen wrote.

Of course, crooks investing resources in Bitcoin theft still must grapple with another challenge: The price of the highly decentralized coin fluctuates wildly. It has reached exchange rates as high as $29, but has plummeted since then, with the current price a little more than $11. ®

This post was rewritten to correct inaccuracies about the way Trojan.Badminer worked.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
Chinese hackers spied on investigators of Flight MH370 - report
Classified data on flight's disappearance pinched
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.