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ESEA Admits to Installing Bitcoin Mining Software on Users’ Computers

by on02 May 2013 1588 times
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How would you feel if one day you noticed that your GPU was going crazy even when your computer was sitting idle? We imagine that you would start scanning your system for viruses after an initial reboot. Now on top of that imagine how you would feel if your anti-malware scans started pointing fingers at the client software of an online service you typically trust. This is exactly what members of competitive e-sports group ESEA E-Sports Entertainment Association found after a recent update to their client software.

From what we have been able to determine (through reports and blog posts) ESEA decided to see if there was a way to make a little money by harnessing the GPU power of their community for Bitcoin mining. They ran some internal tests and decided that this would be a good idea as, after all, a gaming community is bound to have some decent GPU power and GPUs are much better for Bitcoin mining than CPUs. Once they had done their limited internal testing they pushed a new client out that contained the Bitcoin mining systems embedded in them.
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ESEA did respond to this, but it looks like they tried to play it off as only being for a short period of time and something that did not make them much money. In the end it has been admitted that the OpenCL miners ran for almost two weeks and earned 29BTC which was converted into $3713.55. The money will now be donated to the American Cancer Society and ESEA will match the BTC generated funds from their own accounts.

Users of the service as more than a little upset about this as some of them pay for premium service. This means that in addition to their monthly fees ESEA was using their computers to make more money. This event when combined with others raises some serious concerns about the software that we routinely install on our systems to use someone’s services. ESEA was supposed to be a legitimate company and yet they sought a way to use their clients systems without permission to make more money.

ESEA’s client is not the first incident where someone used a large spread service to try and make some money using Bitcoins. Microsoft’s Skype client was recently used to spread malware that used infected PCs for Bitcoin mining.  We expect this trend to continue but we seriously hope that we do not find more companies trying to pull what ESEA did, but maybe this incident will open up the eyes of some of the legislators that keep balking at better privacy laws and motivate them to do something to stop this type of abuse.

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Last modified on 02 May 2013
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