Here’s a weaselly business practice that I’m sure we will see more of in the coming months: Mining Bitcoin through end users’ computers without them knowing.
Gaming company E-Sports Entertainment Association was caught doing this back in the spring and has since paid a $1 million settlement. This week, we are learning that YourFreeProxy is pulling a similar scheme.
The program’s toolbar, which has been downloaded more than 189 million times, according to its website, allows users to create a VPN that allows them to circumnavigate firewalls and pay walls and browse websites in privacy.
It also users their computers to mine Bitcoins, which is OK, I guess, because the activity is explicitly spelled out in the terms of service:
“[A]s part of downloading a Mutual Public [the company’s name], your computer may do mathematical calculations for our affiliated networks to confirm transactions and increase security. Any rewards or fees collected by WBT or our affiliates are the sole property of WBT and our affiliates.”
That clearly reads as “Your computer will mine Bitcoins for us,” doesn’t it?
This was all discovered in late November when a Malwarebytes user reported a file that was using 50% of system resources on his/her computer. Malwarebytes sleuthed around and found out that the file, jh1d.exe is a Bitcoin Miner called jhProtominer, which runs through the command line.
It’s unclear whether there are any possible legal consequences, as the Bitcoin mining may or may not follow the letter of the terms of service.
In the meantime, if you have the YourFreeProxy toolbar, getting rid of that might free up some system resources.