A POPULAR web browser toolbar add-on has been found to enslave its users' PCs to mine Bitcoins.
Web browser toolbars generally are a pain. Many of them promise the earth, but in reality all they do is redirect searches, mine users' data and slow down computers. One, however, has been discovered taking its users' computer resources to mine Bitcoins for its developers.
According to security company Malwarebytes, the Myfreeproxy toolbar add-on is designed to let users easily toggle a proxy server, allowing them to anonymise web browsing or watch foreign internet streaming broadcasts such as Hulu or Netflix US.
However, buried in plain sight in the end user licence agreement (EULA) is a clause giving the program permission to install a Bitcoin miner on the user's machine. Given the immense amount of computing power required to mine Bitcoins, the infected machines have to join a botnet to produce the cyber currency in any appreciable amount.
Of course, technically, this isn't illegal. We Build Toolbars LLC, which makes Myfreeproxy and a host of other toolbars - the clue is in its name - openly admits that its users agree to let their computers be used to make money for it.
If you have spare processing capacity in your computer and really feel like letting others use it, then you can put it to much better use than mining Bitcoins.
The World Community Grid uses a similar technique to put your computer to work helping scientists find cures for diseases including cancer and HIV. It uses only your computer's spare capacity, and you'll be doing good for your fellow man, not a sneaky little web outfit that takes advantage of those who don't read EULAs carefully, which are practically all of us. µ