PC game service admits to serving up Bitcoin-mining malware

Users of popular PC gaming service ESEA have discovered that their PCs have been hijacked to mine Bitcoins by malware served up alongside the company’s client. A hidden Bitcoin-mining process caused users’ graphics cards to overheat as it worked in the background.

The attack has earned $3,602 for the unknown attackers, and has been running since April 14th, the company admitted. The incident was discovered by a site user calling himself ENJOY ESEA SHEEP, and was reported by PC Gamer.

“In the past two days I’ve noticed when my computer was idle, my GPU usage was hovering 90%+ with temps in the high 60s low 70s (hot for my card),” he wrote in a post on the company forums. “Turns out for the past 2 days, my computer has been farming bitcoins for someone in the ESEA community.”

The company initially dismissed the incident as an April Fool’s joke gone wrong. But in a later post, co-founder Eric Thunberg admitted that “this is way more shady than I originally thought.” A client update was released which removed the Bitcoin-mining software. ESEA has offered users free Premium access as compensation. “As of the client update released in the last hour, all the Bitcoin stuff is out which should solve the gpu and av warnings,” Thunberg said.

David Harley, Senior Research Fellow at ESET, says, “I remember a time when distributed processing was a pretty specialized area that was sometimes used for volunteer initiatives like SETI@home and various medical research projects.” .

“Along came malicious botnets that harnessed the capabilities of virtual networks for resource-intensive attacks like DDoS and captcha-breaking. I suppose it was inevitable that the bad guys would try harnessing the spare (and not so spare) processing capacity of victim machines as a way of exploiting the much-abused Bitcoin currency.”

Previous ESET stories featuring abuses of Bitcoin can be found here.

ESEA is a competitive gaming community with 500,000 members. Its software is known for its strong anti-cheat measures. The company describes itself as “ the largest competitive video gaming community in North America, where thousands of players end up after getting sick of playing against cheaters and instead want to play against the best and get better.”

Author Rob Waugh, We Live Security

  • dharleyatESET

    Unfortunately, we don’t have enough information on what malware is being referred to in the original article to confirm that we have specific detection for it. I’m trying to get more information, though.

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