A minor mystery is running through the cryptocurrency world today after code that commanded computers to “mine” a bitcoin-like currency called Monero appeared on websites for premium-cable channel Showtime. In other words, while you were getting confused by Twin Peaks, your browser was pumping out digital coinage.
According to the Register:
The flagship Showtime.com and its instant-access ShowtimeAnytime.com sibling silently pulled in code that caused browsers to blow spare processor time calculating new Monero coins — a privacy-focused alternative to the ever-popular Bitcoin. The hidden software typically consumed as much as 60 per cent of CPU capacity on computers visiting the sites.
Cryptocurrency-mining is a complicated process, but in its essence, “mining” is accomplished by having a computer solve very complex (and processor-intensive) mathematical equations to produce coins. Therefore, by harnessing more processing power, one can generate coins more quickly.
In this case, someone (Showtime owner CBS did not respond to the Register’s questions) plucked ready-made code from a site called Coinhive and used unsuspecting visitors to help them create quote, unquote “wealth.” This isn’t necessarily nefarious — Coinhive’s stuff is made for this precise purpose — but that doesn’t explain how a major broadcasting company got roped in. And because high-def streaming video usually causes processors to run hot, strain on one’s processor wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary.
Showtime’s sites have since removed all traces of the miner. They’re not in great company though — malware sites and Chrome extensions have been found to be silently running the code in the past. The infamous torrent directory the Pirate Bay was also testing it last week.