Mirai is a mortifying spectre of our near future—anybody can use the virus to hijack thousands of poorly secured internet-connected security cameras and other appliances.
It's already been used to launch a massive DDoS attack that targeted some widely-used internet infrastructure, briefly knocking out large swaths of the web for the Eastern seaboard last year, but on Monday IBM X-Force researchers announced that a new version of Mirai is on the loose, with a moronic feature: mining bitcoin.
Why is that dumb? Well, bitcoin "mining" is essentially a race between computers all over the world to complete complex math problems. In the early days of bitcoin, desktop computers could do this. But over the years bitcoin mining has become the purview of well-financed players that run massive, special-purpose server farms. Many of them are in China. These days, if you're not using a custom-designed mining chip called an ASIC, and ideally many of them working in tandem, you might as well give up.
That's why mining bitcoin with a toaster is guaranteed to not yield substantial profits. If you chain thousands of toasters together, you might stand a better chance, but there's no evidence of that yet, according to X-Force, and it's highly doubtful that even a shit-ton of toasters could outmatch all the miners running ASIC farms.
"Given Mirai's power to infect thousands of machines at a time, however, there is a possibility that the bitcoin miners could work together in tandem as one large miner consortium," the IBM X-Force researchers wrote in a blog post. "We haven't yet determined that capability, but we found it to be an interesting yet concerning possibility."
There have been many attempts by hackers to surreptitiously mine bitcoin in the past (and a few still try), but this practice has mostly died out because mining for bitcoin on consumer hardware is so difficult these days. However, hackers have recently targeted newer currencies like Zcash, which may yield higher mining profits due to less competition.
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