Hackers Hijack Advertising Screen in London for Cryptocurrency Mining

A big, Microsoft Windows-powered advertising screen of a shop has been spotted to be hijacked in London.

A big, Microsoft Windows-powered advertising screen of a shop has been spotted to be hijacked in London, according to Terence Eden's blog.

Hackers Hijack Advertising Screen in London for Cryptocurrency Mining
Source: Terence Eden's Blog

Instead of displaying a commercial message from a global brand, it was showing a Windows operating system with a window marked “NiceHash Miner Legacy” – a Bitcoin mining program designed for older computers.

Hackers Hijack Advertising Screen in London for Cryptocurrency Mining
Source: Terence Eden's Blog

The digital advertising display was mining with a hash-rate of zero, which indicated the possibility that the beneficiary of the hack was not receiving anything for the work.

Hackers Hijack Advertising Screen in London for Cryptocurrency Mining
Source: Terence Eden's Blog

The author of the blog asked for “someone cleverer than me [to] figure out which wallet starts with 3Jgi6 and is receiving these coins.”

There are definitely other broken digital advertising displays showing a Windows error message and the author of the original blog post even has a page for these mistakes.

But this appeared to be the first reporting of a terminal being co-opted to mine cryptocurrency. It was not clear if this was the result of an external security breach, or if an employee of the shop had decided to repurpose the computers on the weekend. “Or there's no way to know if the advertising industry has decided that mining is more profitable than encouraging people to enjoy a cool refreshing glass of blue milk.” the blog post said.

Other examples concealing bitcoin miners

This isn’t the first time that advertising has been used to conceal cryptocurrency miners. In the past, hackers have been able to disguise mining software into online adverts or games or used unsuspecting browsers’ machines to mine digital currency for themselves.

Popular file-sharing site Pirate Bay and a WiFi provider at a Starbucks in Argentina were accused of co-opting users’ computer systems for their own benefit. The Starbucks in Buenos Aires was found to be hacking customers' computers to mine for cryptocurrency when they logged onto the free WiFi. The CEO of an email building software discovered the hack when buying coffee at the Starbucks.

He sent a tweet saying: “Hi Starbucks, did you know that your in-store wifi provider in Buenos Aires forces a 10-second delay when you first connect to the wifi so it can mine bitcoin using a customer's laptop? Feels a little off-brand.”

The Pirate Bay recently tested the use of the same technology as a way to provide income for the site so they could reduce advertising.

Cryptocurrencies

Starbucks' Free WiFi Hijacked Computers of Customers to Mine Cryptocurrency

While Pirate Bay provides a free service to its visitors, the website still has maintenance costs. Currently, these are covered by advertising. The Pirate Bay added a Javascript-based bitcoin miner to its homepage, with some users noticing that their CPU usage increased dramatically when they browsed certain Pirate Bay pages.

The plugin, provided by Coinhive, puts users’ computers to work mining Monero, a cryptocurrency released in 2014. The miner was said to be put to test for 24 hours as a possible replacement for traditional banner ads.