Monero mining malware maligns Messenger

The popularity and resultant price increase of Bitcoin and its ilk has become a magnet for cybercrime and hackers vying to get an illicit profit from crypto mining. By utilizing the path of least resistance and preying on the vulnerabilities of the uninitiated they have taken to the easiest platform to exploit – social media.

Facebook is already an out of control web of digital detritus, clickbait, spam, and fake news. Now it’s instant Messenger service has fallen victim to an exploit which allows attackers to secretly mine cryptocurrency by harnessing the computing power of those infected. Researcher and cyber security firm Trend Micro discovered the malware which consists of a mining bot called Digmine.

It is spread via a fake video that appears to have been sent from someone in the victim’s friends list. Once opened the ‘video’ installs malicious code which will compromise the desktop version of Facebook Messenger when used with Google Chrome. Hackers then have a backdoor into the users Facebook account where they can access the contacts list to further spread the malware.

Researchers at Trend Micro stated:

“If the user’s Facebook account is set to log in automatically, Digmine will manipulate Facebook Messenger in order to send a link to the file to the account’s friends. The abuse of Facebook is limited to propagation for now, but it wouldn’t be implausible for attackers to hijack the Facebook account itself down the line.”

It currently does not affect mobile versions of Messenger as its primary target is desktops with CPU power that can be used to mine Monero, an anonymous crypto cousin of Bitcoin. The profits from this illicit computer-jacking are sent to the attacker’s encrypted Monero wallet. The software is a modified version of open source mining program XMRig which the bot sets to start automatically. This will fire up Google Chrome with an infected extension that allows the hackers to access Facebook profiles.

According to the Trend Micro team:

“The extension will read its own configuration from the Command and Control server. It can instruct the extension to either proceed with logging in to Facebook or open a fake page that will play a video. The decoy website that plays the video also serves as part of their C&C structure. This site pretends to be a video streaming site but also holds a lot of the configurations for the malware’s components.”

Officially Chrome extensions can only be downloaded from their web store but in this case the malignant code is added via the command line. This is not the first or last time mining malware has been used to exploit systems, back in October a malicious program called Coinhive was embedded into a number of compromised apps on Google Play. A new trend in crypto malware is emerging so extra caution is needed for heavy users of social media.

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Energy costs vary so much across the globe that mining can either be super profitable, or a total waste of time. On top of that, the primary energy that is being used, especially when it comes to cheap energy, is dirty.

Moreso, there are issues when it comes to harvesting that electricity, and additional tariffs to pay for mining operations, cutting down already slim profit margins. Those who are also in the business already are almost re-centralizing the decentralized mining ecosystem.

However, Envion is aiming to change all that by taking mining operations to the source. By harvesting locally available clean energy right at the source, Envion hopes to be able to operate at a lower cost than other mining set ups, and at the same time reduce the CO2 footprint of the blockchain industry.

Cutting the carbon footprint

With the furore and excitement around cryptocurrencies at the moment, the ecosystem is expanding at a monstrous rate. This is great for the technology and its disruptive nature, in order to revolutionize the global sectors – but not great for the globe itself.

The Guardian has stated back in July that a single Bitcoin transaction “devours as much energy as what powers 1.57 US households for a day — roughly 5,000 times more energy-hungry than a typical credit card payment”.

If Blockchain technology and the digital tokens that come with them are to be accepted as normal, they need to start adhering to the green revolution that is sweeping the planet.

To this end, there are companies, such as Envion who are looking to make the mining of Cryptocurrencies a green operation.

Mobile mining units

Rather than stating that they will be using green energy and hoping that is the end of it, Envion is taking it a whole lot further. Envion has developed a fully automatized, mobile mining unit inside standardized intermodal shipping containers that can be shipped to any location in the world within days or weeks.

These containers are thus able to be set up alongside green energy sources, such as solar panel plants, and hydroelectric dams, and as such, they can utilize energy that is not only green, but also a lot cheaper.

Cutting the costs on all fronts

It makes huge sense logically for mining operations to be situated alongside green power sources. Not only does it allow help the power sources ship some of their excess energy, it also aids in the decentralization of the mining operation.

These mobile rigs can be profitable in any situation with the cost cutting methods, meaning there is no need to mine primarily in Russia or China any more.

Also, Envion developed a new, self-regulating cooling system, specifically for Blockchain mining, which is up to forty-times more energy-efficient and cost-effective than conventional, AC cooling units.

Envion further promotes environmental friendliness by recycling the energy produced from mining with the strategic placement of the mining units, close to objects and buildings that need heating, including warehouses and greenhouses. This enables them to reduce their energy costs even further.

An ICO with hardware

There are hundreds of ICOs that have nothing more than a whitepaper to their names, but with Envion, the mobile containers are already in operation, thus the EVN Token has some real world backing and value.

The EVN token will be on sale for 31 days from Dec. 1, 2017, with a max cap of 150 mln.

Once invested, token holders will have the right to dividends from the mining operations including 100 percent from proprietary mining operations (75 percent immediately and 25 percent reinvested to boost future payouts) and 35 percent from non-proprietary operations.

Finally, token holders will also get a say in company strategy by voting on decisions.

The network hashrate of Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash has become an intriguing metric. Ever since the tables turned in favor of BCH, people have paid close attention to these numbers. So far, it seems the Bitcoin chain has nearly seven times the hashpower of BCH. That is quite a large gap, considering the profitability difference is minimal. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the next few days. The Bitcoin mining difficulty algorithm will get another adjustment very soon.

For cryptocurrency miners, choosing between BTC and BCH is not all that easy. Both coins are pretty profitable to mine, although the momentum shifts quite regularly. There is no wrong option to pick from in this regard, that much is evident. For now, the majority of hashpower has moved back to Bitcoin, a trend that has been apparent for over a full week now. Bitcoin Cash, on the other hand, continues to see a decline in hashpower, which is only to be expected.

Another Hashpower Shift Looms Overhead

With the Bitcoin hashpower rising steadily, things look pretty good. A lot of mining pools will switch between BTC and BCH based on profitability. With these fluctuations, temporary changes in momentum are not uncommon. However, the overall trend is pro-BTC and less pro-BCH, for the time being. The big question is whether or not this situation will remain the same. More specifically, the Bitcoin network will get a mining difficulty adjustment soon. Depending on this change, people may move hashpower back to BCH.

Or that is what a lot of Bitcoin Cash supporters are hoping for, at least. If the hashpower moves away from BTC, the network may struggle for some time to come. With the BCH price getting pumped again, the community is enticing Bitcoin miners to make the switch as soon as the difficulty adjustment happens. It is a bit of an annoying tactic, but there is nothing illegal about it whatsoever. Moreover, it remains to be seen how this will all pan out in the coming days.

For now, nothing has been set in stone just yet. The mining situation in cryptocurrency is always subject to change. It would take a major switch from BTC to BCH to make a noticeable difference. There is a precedent, though, as such a switch happened 12 days ago. History doesn’t repeat itself often in cryptocurrency, but this weekend may prove to be an exception. Only time will tell what we can expect in the coming days.

With the news of Bitcoin all-time high prices almost every week, it’s easy to forget that the world’s leading cryptocurrency is also setting new tops by other metrics almost as frequently. One of these is electricity consumption. According to an energy price comparison service in Britain, the environmental cost of mining Bitcoin might be far greater than most realise, or would prefer not to admit.

For Bitcoin to stay secure and immutable, processing units must solve and check complex algorithms. This is known as “mining” and those who use computer systems to provide this work are called “miners”. In Bitcoins beginning, mining occurred on a handful of laptop computers across the globe. As the price of Bitcoin has increased, so too has the profitability of performing the computational tasks required to ensure that the network runs smoothly. This has caused an effective arms race. Chip designers create ever-more complex machinery to perform the necessary “proof of work” and thus generate a greater proportion of the miner rewards that incentivise network participants. These specialised units also use a lot of electricity.

Today, not only has equipment become more expensive to run in terms of power, but greater numbers of miners than ever before are competing for rewards from the network. Miners whose equipment successfully solves the algorithm first earn themselves 12.5BTC, or around $100,625 at the time of writing. This has, of course, led to unprecedented increase in the amount of electricity used to mine new Bitcoins.

Power Compare, an energy price evaluation platform from the UK, recently published the total amount of electricity required by the Bitcoin network. As of Monday November 20th, 2017, Bitcoin was estimated to be consuming as much as 0.13% of the total global electricity consumption. To put that into perspective, it requires more electricity than the entire nation of Nigeria, or Ireland. In fact, the price watchdogs reckon the total burden of mining in terms of resources makes the Bitcoin network less energy efficient than 159 countries.

The UK company published various other statistics about Bitcoin’s power consumption too. They estimate that the amount of electricity that the network uses is equivalent to the usage of 2.4 million Americans, or 6.1 million Britons. It’s thought that all that juice costs over $1.5 billion annually. Meanwhile, mining is thought to rake in a total of $7.2 billion in the same period of time. Clearly, with such margins, it’s easy to see why so many are seeking to try their hands at Bitcoin mining. However, if increases in mining interest continue at the rate they are today, how long such power-hungry operations are permitted to continue remains to be seen.

 

Image: PixaBay

 

Bitcoin Cash remains a very interesting creature in the world of cryptocurrency. Although the opinions on this altcoin remain divided, no one can argue the value is surging. More specifically, the price per BCH has surpassed $1,500 again overnight. It also appears the mining profitability is slightly in favor of BCH as of right now. An interesting future lies ahead for this particular currency, that much is evident.

In a way, it was a matter of time until Bitcoin Cash saw another ‘pump”. It is hard to classify price momentum like this as it often comes out of the blue. Now that the hard fork has been dialed in properly, things are slowly returning to normal for BCH. That means we may see the price move toward $2,000 before the year is over. It will all depend on how much people are willing to pay for this currency.

More Positive Momentum for Bitcoin Cash

So far, we have seen a 32% increase in price over the past 24 hours. This seems to coincide with Bitcoin Cash becoming more profitable to mine. Although the difference is minuscule between both chains, BCH is the best option at the time of writing. Whether or not enough people care about this 0.2% difference, is doubtful, though. Speaking of the mining situation, an interesting situation is developing. An “unknown” entity is mining nearly half of the network blocks all of a sudden.

Since these blocks do not belong to an official pool, it is interesting to keep an eye on. When the network first launched, we had unknown miners generate 75% of all blocks for a few days. This doesn’t appear to be a repeat process, though. In fact, we see there are several entities labeled as Unknown. All of them use a different coin base text when they find a block. That in itself is pretty interesting, albeit also a bit worrisome. At the same time, it shows greater interest in Bitcoin Cash as a whole.

This upcoming weekend will be rather interesting for all cryptocurrencies. With virtually all top currencies in the green, fireworks are to be expected. Who will come out on top, remains the big question. Right now, the momentum favors BCH, but that can always change at any given moment. Monero has been going strong all week as well, as has Dash. Litecoin might surprise everyone, though, as very few people actively talk about it these days. There is no such thing as a boring day in cryptocurrency.

Mining pools are always looking to attract more miners. That is much easier than done, though. ViaBTC has come up with a new plan to do exactly that. Their new “holiday incentive” is pretty interesting to take a look at. Anyone who continuously mines for 30 days will be eligible for a prize. Some of these rewards are pretty big, even though most users won’t have the necessary hashrate whatsoever.

It is evident the big miners will benefit the most from this new ViaBTC campaign. Anyone who contributes less than 1 petahash per second will not receive anything, by the look of things. That is only to be expected, although this incentive was never designed for the everyday miner whatsoever. The users who can successfully contribute that amount or hashpower or even more will certainly get rewarded handsomely.

Massive Giveaway by ViaBTC

Rewards include Bluetooth speakers, an iPhone X, and Macbook laptops. Those who successfully contribute between 7 and 8 petahash will be eligible for the iPhone X giveaway. It seems these rewards will be issued free of charge and come on top of the regular mining rewards users receive. An interesting way of tying more miners to ViaBTC and Bitcoin Cash, that much is evident. It makes you wonder why we don’t see more of these efforts in the first place.

This promotion begins on November 23rd and runs until December 25th. That means interested parties need to switch over their miners starting tomorrow. The hashpower needs to be provided continuously for 30 days or more. Users can’t switch to different pools in the meantime. Moreover, the winners may not receive the actual goods, depending on supply issues and locations. Overseas miners will receive gift cards with the item value instead. That makes the whole ordeal a lot less appealing all of a sudden.

It will be interesting to see how this promotion plays out for ViaBTC. Users are welcome to mine either Bitcoin or Bitcoin Cash, as long as they provide the hashpower. This may lead to a spike in BCH hashrate over the next few weeks. At the same time, there is no indication anyone will join this giveaway unless they live in China, to begin with. People would love to get an iPhone X instead of a gift card, but that is pretty much impossible for non-Chinese residents. Regardless, the incentive itself is pretty clever.

A small mining rig manufacturer in Singapore has reported a huge surge in sales in recent months. Dexter Ng of Mining.sg estimates that the company has gone from selling around 15 rigs each month in July to now selling over 100. He told Channel News Asia:

Customers come in and order 50 rigs on their own. Compared to last time, probably one person only buys one or two. Now we get customers who buy 10, 20 or even 50.

In a few short months the company has expanded from a couple of friends selling specialised graphics processing units online to a fully-equipped office space in Geyland Lorong, Singapore. There, they have facilities in which to build up to 45 rigs at once. Each one can sell for between S$5,500 and S$6,500. In USD, that’s $3,670 to $4,770. Ng went on to talk about his company’s early days:

“We posted photos online, on Facebook, and people started asking how much is this and they wanted buy it off… So I sold it to people who queried on Facebook, and after a while, we started selling many on Facebook, so we decided to incorporate this company.”

The explosive growth of many different cryptocurrencies in 2017 is driving the interest in mining hardware both in Singapore and elsewhere. The price of a single Bitcoin is currently up around 6.5x in this year alone. During the last eleven months, one BTC has gone from costing around $1,000 to between $6,000 and $7,000 at the time of writing. This has encouraged many to turn to mining as a way of generating a passive income and getting involved in the space.

Likewise, the soaring market cap of the entire industry has caused a huge uptake of interest in crypto exchanges. Singapore’s Coinhako reported that the numbers of users on their books had doubled since the start of the year.

Meanwhile, the Singapore regulators are reluctant to approach the space with too heavy a hand. The Monetary Authority of Singapore told Bloomberg in October that there were no plans to regulate cryptocurrencies at present. However, they did confirm that were monitoring the space for risk.

Image: ShutterStock

 

Things have been rather uneasy in the world of cryptocurrency this weekend. Bitcoin Cash had a good run, but things are slowly coming to an end. Most of the mining power is also coming back to Bitcoin as we speak. With BCH being more difficult and less profitable to mine, a crisis is seemingly averted. This doesn’t mean Bitcoin it out of the woods entirely, though. This tense situation will firmly remain in place for quite some time to come.

The big story this weekend how Bitcoin Cash successfully had more hashpower than Bitcoin. As a result, the Bitcoin network came to a proverbial standstill. Fees were skyrocketing and transaction delays were painful to watch. A lot of miners moved to BCH due to sheer profitability. An understandable decision, to say the least, but also a very dangerous one. So far, it seems the situation is reversing once again.

Bitcoin Cash Hashrate Drops Like a Brick

With Bitcoin successfully reclaiming the majority of hashpower, an inverted situation is created. It is now Bitcoin Cash which struggles to get transactions confirmed. Additionally, users are forced to include slightly higher transaction fees. Some transactions take several hours to successfully confirm, which is pretty problematic, to say the least. It is evident this “attack” against Bitcoin has failed in its mission. It is now the BCH crowd claiming how Core supporters are attacking their network.

None of this means the Bitcoin price will go up again by definition, though. In fact, it may continue to go down for some time to come. A lot of people have sent coins to exchange for trading days ago. Those transfers are only now getting confirmed one by one. With still over 124,000 unconfirmed transactions to go through, things will not improve all that much in the coming hours. It is a very tense situation that is well worth keeping an eye on.

The bigger question is what will happen to Bitcoin Cash in the future. The value per BCH is still inflated even while the network is struggling. It is evident something will need to give in this regard. It is all part of a very tense situation which still haunts the Bitcoin ecosystem as a whole to this very day. This “battle’ is far from over, that much is rather evident. For now, Bitcoin still reigns supreme, whereas Bitcoin Cash remains an altcoin. Whether or not this situation can change, remains to be seen. Just make sure to have popcorn on hand when the fireworks begin again.

Some interesting changes are happening in the world of Bitcoin mining pools. With the hashrate dropping in favor of BCH, rankings of pools are shaken up as well. Slushpool is now the biggest Bitcoin mining operation open to the public. They generate over 20% of all blocks, which puts them ahead of AntPool, An interesting development, especially when considering what this means for the future.

For the past few years, Bitcoin mining was dominated by Chinese mining pools. This has always been a big problem in the eyes of many users. China has lost its dominant position in the Bitcoin world several months ago. It now appears they are no longer leading the mining scene either. Instead, Slushpool is now the biggest Bitcoin mining pool. That is a rather interesting development, to say the least. It is an interesting fact to keep in mind for the future.

Slushpool Scores Brownie Points With the Bitcoin Community

Although the mining focus is now on Bitcoin Cash, the bigger picture needs to be kept in mind at all times Bitcoin with SegWit isn’t going away whatsoever. In fact, it will probably remain the biggest cryptocurrency for some time to come. Slushpool rejected SegWit2x initially based on votes cast by its miners. They are not in favor of BCH either, as it is an altcoin. It is evident this particular pool firmly believes Bitcoin is fine the way it is and needs to be supported. Some people will gladly disagree on that front, though.

Overtaking Antpool as the biggest Bitcoin mining pool is a pretty big deal. It is the first time in a while a non-Chinese party leads the Bitcoin division in this regard. Slushpool also has also a far more solid reputation in the Bitcoin world. Back when the accidental fork occurred in 2013, the pool as the first to help out the network. Other pools decided to maintain their wait-and-see approach. It is evident they value the community first and foremost and couldn’t care less about quick profits. That hard work is now paying off, by the look of things.

It will be interesting to see how this affects Slushpool moving forward. They may attract a lot more hashpower in the near future. It is important to ensure the pool doesn’t grow too large either, otherwise, a new problem is created. It is very likely some miners will move over in the coming weeks. Especially with the Bitcoin Cash profitability adjustment coming soon, things will get very interesting. Moreover, their half-assed EDA will be gone tomorrow as well. An interesting future lies ahead for Bitcoin, that much is evident.

Header image courtesy of Shutterstock

As brilliant as a tool for financial empowerment as it is, Bitcoin isn’t terribly environmentally friendly. It’s been estimated by Alex de Vries at Digiconomist that with BTC priced as it currently is, it would be profitable for miners to consumer 24 terawatt-hours in power every year. Put another way, more electricity than the entire state of Nigeria and its 186 million inhabitants use per annum. The analyst told MotherBoard:

Blockchain is inefficient tech by design, as we create trust by building a system based on distrust. If you only trust yourself and a set of rules (the software), then you have to validate everything that happens against these rules yourself. That is the life of a blockchain node.

The idea of an environmentally friendly cryptocurrency taking over Bitcoin is nothing new. In 2013 PeerCoin was touted by many to be an early solution to the energy demands of the Bitcoin network. They were, of course, much smaller back then too.

The latest effort to reduce the carbon footprint of Bitcoin comes from the creator of BitTorrent, Bram Chohen. For him, the fact that each Bitcoin transaction currently requires as much power as an American home uses in a week is completely unacceptable.

He’s currently developing the Chia Network to try and tackle the issue. He considers two main issues with Bitcoin at present. These are the environmental impact of mining and the centralisation of miners. The two are interlinked as well. Concentration of mining interests occurs because of varying electricity prices and ambient temperatures around the globe. Miners are most efficient where its cheap and cold. He told TechCrunch:

The idea is to make a better bitcoin, to fix the centralization problems

Chia will enforce proofs of space and proofs of time, instead of the resource-intensive proofs of work popularised by Bitcoin. Cohen plans to use spare space on the hard drives of computers comprising the network. This is, of course, abundant and free. He admits that it isn’t the first time that similar has been tried but claims to have incorporated proofs of time to limit Chia’s exposure to potential attack vectors others have encountered.

For now, Cohen has an idea and has completed an early round of funding. He’s currently ramping up his hiring efforts. He seems optimistic despite the demands of setting up an entirely new system:

It’s technically ambitious and there’s a big meaty chunk of work to do. I’ve done enough raising money and recruiting. Now for the real work.

It’ll be some time yet before the network is ready for use. According to the man himself, the goal is to start some sales some time in 2018. He aims to have the project ready for a full launch by 2018. However, Cohen does admit that nothing has been finalised in terms of release.

 

Image: Bit.vn