Feeds

Malware mints virtual currency using victim's GPU

Bitcoin mining meets parallel computing

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Regin: The super-spyware the security industry has been silent about
NSA fingered as likely source of complex malware family
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
HACKERS can DELETE SURVEILLANCE DVRS remotely – report
Hikvision devices wide open to hacking, claim securobods
'Regin': The 'New Stuxnet' spook-grade SOFTWARE WEAPON described
'A degree of technical competence rarely seen'
Astro-boffins start opening universe simulation data
Got a supercomputer? Want to simulate a universe? Here you go
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Go beyond APM with real-time IT operations analytics
How IT operations teams can harness the wealth of wire data already flowing through their environment for real-time operational intelligence.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?