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Would you mind if someone openly used your phone to mine cryptocurrency?

Bitcoin on computer
Peter Verreussel / 123rf
Botnets are generally associated with a collection of computers that have been backed by malicious users in order to use those computers to earn revenue either by spreading malware, mining cryptocurrency, or other endeavors. However, Russian developer Alexey Khripkov claims to have created a legal botnet by installing bitcoin mining software onto the phones of users who download his popular Android games.

Khripkov has released a number of popular Android games and has an unusual plan to monetize those games. Rather than simply relying on micro-transactions or direct purchases, Khripkov uses his customers’ phones to mine for bitcoins.

In an interview with Forbes, Khripkov stressed that he was breaking no laws and wasn’t doing anything unethical in by setting up this botnet.

“‘Legal botnet’ is only words. It means I have control over thousands of devices,” he told Forbes. “I do not do any evil things like illegal botnets … In my app you can control mining, you enable if it’s acceptable for you or disable if you do not want it. It is not hidden for users, so it is fully legal.”

While Khripkov insists that he has done nothing wrong, some cyber-security firms disagree and many anti-virius companies have started blocking Puzzles, the game which includes the mining software. In a blog post, Ixia, said that programs such as Khripkov’s represented “the next generation of adware software” noting that “thousands of users of users are actively mining for the personal profit of app’s creator.”

Khripkov has denied that he is creating any form of malware, and even accused the anti-virus companies of being the real evil, saying that they create fake threats to scare users, but don’t do anything about real dangers. As an example of his concerns, Khripkov discussed the anti-virus software doesn’t block apps which request access to a device’s SD card, which could contain sensitive information. For his part, the Russian developer stressed that his app did not access any personal information.

While there is still room for debate surrounding Khripkov’s actions, it is undeniable that this year has seen an increase in the number of cryptocurrency-related exploits as the currency’s value has increased. Previously, these attacks were associated with the shady corners of the internet, but a recent report indicates that they have spread to legitimate websites across the internet.

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Eric Brackett
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