Security software firm Malwarebytes has uncovered an application that employs the computers of unwitting users to mine Bitcoins. Permission to use machines in this way is buried deep in the software’s End User License Agreement (EULA), said Malwarebytes’ Adam Kujawa in a blog posting.
Back on November 22 the antivirus outfit received a query from a user about a process that was taking up 50 percent of the resources on his system. The executable to blame was quickly discovered to be mining for Bitcoins on behalf of its developer.
“We did some research and found out that the file in question was a Bitcoin Miner known as jhProtominer, a popular mining software that runs via the command line,” said Kujawa. “However, it wasn’t the miner recreating its own file and executing but a parent process known as monitor.exe.”
After some further digging, Malwarebytes staff found that the blame lay at the feet of We Build Toolbars LLC, a company responsible for a free Wi-Fi proxy utility. “Monitor.exe beacons out constantly,” explains Kujawa, “waiting for commands from a remote server, eventually downloading the miner and installing it on the system.”
The practice is covered by the program’s EULA, which says: “As part of downloading a Mutual Public, your computer may do mathematical calculations for our affiliated networks to confirm transactions and increase security. Any rewards or fees collected by WBT or our affiliates are the sole property of WBT and our affiliates.”
Kujawa is warning users to keep an eye on their systems: “So take note if your system is running especially slow or if a process is taking up massive amounts of your processing power; it might be malware or even a PUP (Potentially Unwanted Program) running a miner on your system.”
Malware and adware companies looking to cash in on popular search terms and tech topics is nothing new, and the safety advice is always the same: keep a good-quality security software package on your computer, keep your browsers and applications right up to date, be wary of installing anything you’re not sure of… and pay close attention to the EULA you’re agreeing to.