Malware hijacks smartphones to mine cryptocurrencies similar to Bitcoin

No matter what happens to market players or its perceived value at any given moment, interest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies refuses to die. Which is why a new form of malware has been introduced that uses a botnet of smartphones to mine virtual coinage.

The malware, called CoinKrypt, can severely run down the battery life on smartphones and--in rare cases--destroy them.

"While one of the most inefficient ways of mining for alternative currencies like Litecoin and Dogecoin, malware authors are still continuing to experiment with it because that's how eager criminals are to get their hands on these new coins," noted security firm Lookout, in an email to FierceMobileIT.

Lookout simultaneously released a post on the current security threats facing Bitcoin and digital currencies, as well as what IT managers can expect as the nascent industry matures.

"CoinKrypt … is designed to hijack your phone in order to use it to mine digital currency for somebody else," Lookout's Marc Rogers wrote in a blog post. "So far we have only found CoinKrypt in Spanish forums dedicated to the distribution of pirated software."

Rogers noted that although such mining doesn't steal information from your phone, "mining can be incredibly resource-intensive and, if allowed to run without any limits, could potentially damage hardware by causing it to overheat and even burn out."

Still, the malware can produce other nasties for smartphone users. At a minimum, it can cause the phone to get warm and its battery to lose life. Potentially more annoying, it can periodically download "what is known as block chain, or a copy of the currency transaction history, which can be several gigabytes in size," Rogers says.

Some good news from the blog: "As malware goes, CoinKrypt is about as basic as they come."

Still, "this lack of complexity is part of what makes it dangerous," Rogers says. "Normal mining software is set up to throttle the rate at which coins are mined to project the hardware it is running on. This includes no such protection and will drive the hardware until it runs out of battery. Overheating associated with this kind of harsh use can also damage hardware."

For more:
- check out Rogers' blog post

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