Billions of Video Streaming Users are Unknowingly Mining Cryptocurrency

Popular video streaming services are secretly mining cryptocurrency using borrowed power from their visitors, ZDNet reports.

Researchers at AdGuard said on Wednesday that stealth cryptocurrency mining is becoming increasingly popular. Up to one billion users may have been affected in recent months without their knowledge.

Many streaming services are using CoinHive, which will mine for cryptocurrency while visitors watch live TV channels or movies. The system uses computing power generated by users without asking for their consent.

AdGuard said several ripper and streaming sites are practicing “cryptojacking,” including Rapidvideo, Streamango, OnlineVideoConverter and Openload.

Data shows that these three sites receive an estimated 992 million visitors per month. AdGuard estimates that the three sites could generate more than $320,000 per month if cryptojacking is successful with each visitor.

“We doubt that all the owners of these sites are aware that the hidden mining has been built into these players,” AdGuard researchers noted.

Torrent website The Pirate Bay was under fire in October for allegedly launching a cryptocurrency mining scheme. The website’s operators said the scheme was an experiment to see if cryptojacking could provide the revenue needed to run the site without advertisements.

Estimates suggest that The Pirate Bay could generate more than $12,000 per month through cryptocurrency mining.

The majority of these behind-the-scenes mining schemes target the Monero cryptocurrency instead of bitcoin.

Pieter Arntz, a malware intelligence researcher at Malwarebytes, told The Guardian, “Monero mining does not depend on heavily specialised, application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), but can be done with any CPU or GPU. Without ASICs, it is almost pointless for an ordinary computer to participate in the mining process for Bitcoin.”

Arntz also notes that Monero is quick to mine, untraceable and faster to confirm transactions.

There are currently only a few solutions to stop stealth crypto mining: antiviruses, ad blockers and specialized extensions that target cryptojacking.

Projects like CoinHive have found ways to bypass ad blockers.

Why is cryptojacking so concerning? For starters, the scheme operates without consent from users, which opens up privacy concerns. Additionally, crypto mining uses a lot of power. In fact, bitcoin mining consumes more electricity in one year than all of Ireland. That means streaming users are unknowingly using more power to help service providers mine for Monero.

The Guardian reports that a single bitcoin transaction uses about 300KWh of electricity, which is enough power to boil about 36,000 kettles of water.

Earlier in the month, ExtremeTech reported that bitcoin mining uses more power than 159 countries. That same report noted that if bitcoin were a country, it would have the 61st-highest energy consumption in the world. This figure only covers the mining process and does not take into account the power consumed by Bitcoin-enabled ATMs and vending machines.

Bitcoins are awarded to systems that complete complicated calculations. These calculations become increasingly complex over time. The cost of running mining operations has skyrocketed, forcing many operations to move to countries with low energy rates. An estimated 58% of bitcoin mining takes place in China.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.