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Making easy money out of thin air
"In a month I earned enough to buy an apartment and visit three countries.
Write me back and I'll teach you how to do it—it's easy"
A message posted on the Internet
We’ve already told our readers about Trojans that mine cryptocurrencies. But, as it turns out, many users in Russia first heard of mining from a news story about 30% of Moscow’s servers being infected. So let's discuss mining in more detail.
Nowadays, most of us use bank cards in one way or another. Money on a card is essentially nothing more than figures in a bank's database. Cryptocurrency amounts are also entries in databases on the Internet, nothing more. However, the advantage of cryptocurrencies is that they are much better protected against manipulation. While banks are responsible for the integrity of customer account information, cryptocurrency projects don't have the required infrastructure, and the same result is achieved by means of the specific technologies they employ. If you'd like to learn more, you can find tons of information about the block chain system on the Internet.
However, this is not why cryptocurrencies have become so popular. It’s rather because they attract people with an unquenchable desire to earn money without doing anything. And fraudsters take advantage of that and bilk gullible users of substantial amounts.
Cryptocurrencies are generated out of thin air. A mining application is running on a computer. At a random point, its owner is notified that they’ve gotten richer. Or the notification doesn’t come, and the user must pay their electricity bill with a sigh and/or replace their burnt-out hardware by investing in even more mining.
Mining is a typical pyramid scheme. When a cryptocurrency project is started, the probability of earning bitcoins (monero, etc.) is high. First joiners (and project authors, too, of course) earn a lot. But the unknown currency's exchange rate against other currencies is next to zero. To increase its value, more miners are required.
The current mania for mining in Russia is somewhat reminiscent of the enthusiasm with which people entangled themselves in pyramid schemes in the early 90s when small groups of people on top of the pyramids made a lot of money at the expense of those who joined in later.
The more time passes, the less likely it is that another bitcoin will end up in a miner's wallet. And the moment comes when investments exceed revenue.
More and more efforts are required for mining, and more hardware power comes into play. At first, an ordinary home PC was enough; then digital miners switched to hi-end video adapters for gamers, and later those were superseded by special mining devices. Those initially appeared as reprogrammed chips, but later application-specific integrated circuits were put to use. These are distinguished by fast hash calculation and low power consumption.
But many people say they’re earning a lot!
Sometimes huge amounts of money out of nowhere can drive people insane.
- You’re reading reviews that were written a long time ago by those with a solid cryptocurrency background. The situation may be different today.
- A person who invested heavily in mining equipment is unlikely to tell the world that it was all for nothing or that they've found a way to use electricity without paying for it.
Quite often guides appear on forums or other sites telling users how they can purchase equipment, invest a certain amount of money, and get a guaranteed profit — Ekaterina warns readers. – As a matter of fact, these are judgments made by those who’ve never actually mined bitcoins themselves. Unfortunately, there exists an entire army of such experts. I don't think there’s anything good about this because these guides often influence inexperienced users' decisions. And these decisions aren't always right. A miner's income depends on a number of factors which aren't limited to the price of equipment, although that is quite important.
The profitability of mining is influenced just as much by the cryptocurrency's volatile exchange rate, the price of electricity, and the real life span (not the time period declared by the manufacturer) of the equipment, primarily video adapters.
- Vendors profit from the sales of their products. Who wrote all those success stories? Do all those heroes really exist?
And now we have the king of mining, and a video adapter that soon won't be available in any store.
A graphics card review
And here there exists the temptation to make money illegally:
He uses other people's dedicated servers. A miner gains access to computers over RDP and installs a small miner program on them. Server owners are usually completely unaware of it.
- The program is self-made. It operates as malware and utilises all of a CPU’s power, he explained. – It analyses the system to determine an optimal mining routine and then runs it.
It doesn't take much time. A search for new computers takes about 20 minutes a day. A suitable computer must use a broadband connection—100 MB per second or faster.
- It took me only five minutes to specify the IP range and the program started scanning. – In a couple of hours, it managed to scan all the machines in the specified country. There’s no use to look for machines by city. Tens of thousands of people already do that. I then need to specify IP addresses for password cracking.
Security experts regard programs of this kind as malicious, and those who distribute them are considered to be criminals.
Meanwhile, Victor doesn't think he’s doing anything illegal.
- Legality is an ambiguous term. You didn’t lock your garage door and someone got inside. Who’s to blame? The same goes for computers. If you set "12345" as a password, someone is going to crack it. There are many negligent people who use the same string as a login and password. Once there was a hospital where the same login and password were used on 150 computers.
If the owner of a compromised computer tries to discover who is stealing their CPU’s power, they are likely to fail. An attacker penetrates computers via servers residing in other countries. They are used to mount brute-force attacks, access computers remotely, and install the software.
- The competition is very tough. We often have to delete other people’s programs from servers and install our own. My code hardly exists longer than 48 hours before it gets replaced by someone else’s.
We’re not saying that one can't profit from mining. Perhaps, one can. But this market mostly supports criminals, and profits can turn to dust at any moment.
According to the indictment, BTC-E was involved in various criminal activities ranging from hacking attacks, cyberfraud, and identity theft to tax scams and drug trafficking. The investigation revealed that since its founding, BTC-E has laundered over $4 billion in criminal proceeds in bitcoins.
US authorities believe that Alexander Vinnik is also connected to an attack on the oldest bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, which ceased to operate in 2014. According to the investigators, the Russian national received the money that was stolen in the attack on Mt. Gox and used BTC-E and his other currency exchange Tradehill to launder it.
And bear in mind that news about exploits or malware always draws the interest of aspiring hacker wannabes. Therefore, if your computer's performance has deteriorated:
- Check the autorun list as well as the list of running processes (don't forget that this won't solve all the problems because malware may not appear on the autorun list and can inject its code into legitimate processes).
- Run a full anti-virus scan.
- Contact the technical support service and provide its engineers with a suspicious file or describe the situation in detail.