Despite Goldman Sachs' prediction that all cryptocurrency will eventually lose its value, it seems stories of overpriced graphics cards, startup scams, and scientists getting into bother are never far from the headlines at the moment.
This weekend, the UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) was forced to close down its website after hackers gained control of its visitors' computers in order to mine cryptocurrency.
As reported by the BBC, security researcher Scott Helme suggested over 4,000 websites were affected—including a number of government sites—however the affected code had, as of yesterday, been disabled with visitors no longer at risk. Helme—who was alerted by a friend who had received a malware warning when visiting the ICO website—was able to trace the issue to a plug-in called Browsealoud, used to help partially sighted and blind people online. The company who makes the plug-in, Texthelp, thereafter confirmed the plug-in was hit for four hours by code designed to generate cryptocurrency.
According to the BBC, the cryptocurrency involved was Monero—a Bitcoin rival designed to be untraceable. Given crypto mining involves leveraging vast processing power in order to solve complex maths problems—in turn using substantial amounts of electricity—using someone else's computer to do the heavy lifting, I imagine, would in turn make this untraceability appealing.
But, listen, I'm far from an expert on the subject. Look for Jared, Paul and/or Tuan's more cultured words on the subject over here.
Speaking to the Beeb, Helme said: "It's a very lucrative proposal. They infect one website and it infects close to 5,000. This was a very serious breach. They could have extracted personal data, stolen information or installed malware. It was only limited by the hackers' imaginations."