A Starbucks customer in Buenos Aires walked in for a coffee and wound up with more than he’d bargained. After connecting to the store’s free wifi, the man discovered that his laptop had been hijacked for cryptocurrency mining. Starbucks apologized for the failing, but not before malicious code had been installed on the customer’s computer.
Drop It Like It’s Hotspot
Covert cryptocurrency mining has been a hot topic this year – as have most topics pertaining to cryptocurrency. Websites which surreptitiously use visitors’ CPUs to mine cryptocurrency are extremely controversial. The code can hide in pop-under windows and remain open indefinitely, slowing laptops and other devices to a crawl. Such behavior might be expected of anarchist webmasters, but it’s hard to imagine global corporations stooping so low. That’s what happened to Noah Dinkin however after visiting a Starbucks in the Argentinian capital.
In reality, the code was likely using his CPU to mine monero, but the sentiment remains the same. The amount of monero that could be mined via a single CPU is negligible, but with thousands of laptops working in tandem, these miniscule gains can add up. The site responsible for injecting the malicious code makes no bones about its raison d’être, boasting: “Monetize Your Business With Your Users’ CPU Power”.
After being alerted to the issue, Starbucks, to their credit, responded:
It’s common practise for corporations to outsource their wifi service to a third party. After the incident emerged, a Starbucks spokesman told Motherboard:
The wifi is not run by Starbucks, it’s not something we own or control. We want to ensure that our customers are able to search the internet over wifi securely, so we will always work closely with our service provider when something like this comes up. We don’t have any concern that this is widespread across any of our stores.
Incidents such as this are more benign than some of the sob stories that are endemic to crypto, such as hacking. Nevertheless, the incident illustrates both the ubiquity of cryptocurrency and the lengths to which enterprising individuals will stoop to claim their piece of the pie. You might not be able to pay for a coffee with cryptocurrency, but your Starbucks coffee can pay for cryptocurrency. The moral of the story? Everything comes with a price – even free wifi.
Do you think it’s wrong for websites to hijack their users’ CPUs for crypto mining? Let us know in the comments section below.
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