Links to Pretty Pictures on Skype Actually Send Users’ Machines on Goose Chase for Digital Money


malware, security, bitcoin, skype, hackersWith the all-digital currency bitcoin rising in value, hackers have redoubled their efforts to get at the money. Earlier this week, they hacked into a bitcoin bank. Today, Kaspersky Security reports that a malware scheme on Skype is taking over users’ machines to help them hunt for the currency online.

The currency releases additional value in a process not unlike Will Shortz puzzler competition on NPR. The central bank releases a really, really hard math problem that requires substantial computing power to solve. Of all the successful answers it gets, it chooses one by lottery and gives it a coin. (In the Shortz scenario, all the lucky solver gets is a chance to play on air with Shortz.) It’s complicated, but the math essentially assures fair play. (Link to Quora explanation requires login — don’t blame us.)

Did we mention that you need a lot of computing power to get the money? Computing power costs money — unless you illicitly take over someone else’s computer with malware. That’s exactly what some Skype hackers began doing today.

Why Skype? It has a lot of users and isn’t super-duper secure.

The malware sends users a link with a note saying it’s a great photo of them. This is social engineering: It plays on the user’s vanity to get them to click.

Once they do, the rest is nefarious computer genius. The website the link directs users to infects their computers with malicious code that commands some of their computing power (CPU) to work on the bitcoin math challenges. The hackers get a free ticket for the bitcoin lottery.

“Average clicking is also pretty high with more than [2,000] clicks per hour. Most of potential victims live in Italy then Russia, Poland, Costa Rica, Spain, Germany, Ukraine and others,” wrote security researcher Dmitry Bestuzhev.

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