back to article Got a botnet? Thinking of using it to mine Bitcoin? Don't bother

Despite an increase in popularity over recent months amongst botnet operators, malware-powered Bitcoin mining brings little to no financial return, say experts. Security giant McAfee contends in its quarterly threat report (PDF) that commercial botnet controllers and malware packages have been adding cryptocurrency mining …

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  1. Herby

    Maybe we should encourage them...

    To try the mining operation, so they can LOSE $$$ in the process and give up on the idea after all.

    The herders will price themselves out of business. Novel concept. When do they start.

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: Maybe we should encourage them...

      I think the whole mining part of malware is more of a, 'Well, as long as I have all these machines doing other stuff, a bit of mining couldn't hurt.' situation.

      More a sideline than the main purpose.

    2. Oninoshiko

      Re: Maybe we should encourage them...

      "To try the mining operation, so they can LOSE $$$ in the process and give up on the idea after all.

      The herders will price themselves out of business. Novel concept. When do they start."

      I think you are confused. Botnet operators cannot lose money on any of this, mostly because they do not have costs. They may make less money, but that, unfortunately, is not the same as losing money.

  2. Phil W

    Flawed

    I believe their calculations are flawed as it sounds like they're based on mining bitcoin with CPUs on compromised systems, which is all but pointless even when the hardware and electricity aren't yours.

    However if they were mining some other coin, based on Scrypt for example, which is more CPU friendly then I suspect the profitability would increase significantly.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Flawed

      Except that other coins are next to worthless, so even if they can mine a lot of them it adds up to very little.

      1. Phil W

        Re: Flawed

        They're worth less, not worthless. While that is true they can be mined significantly faster so in the same period you end up with more value.

        You try cpu mining bitcoin for a week (or even 24 hours), then try cpu mining any of the currently popular Scrypt N coins for the same period and then trade it for bitcoin on an exchange, see which gets you the larger sum of bitcoin.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Flawed

          and how many people do you think would continue to use an infected computer thats using 100% of it's CPU time to mine alt-coins??

          I think an attrition rate of 30% is pretty low really, people would just shut them straight off.

          of course you could try and run covertly, using 25% CPU time to stay hidden.

          but then you slash your profit margin by 75%, and once again it becomes a futile task.

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    WTF?

    So coin mining is a losing game, then ?

    "But even if we allow a zero cost for hardware and power (the costs of the bots and their power are borne by the victims), the difficulty level of common mining algorithms and the nonspecialized hardware that the malware infects make this a futile effort."

    Okay, I can understand that a smartphone is nowhere near the level of power required to mine any whatevercoin, so that's out by definition. But here, they're apparently saying that even on PCs without electrical costs, it is not worthwhile. At that point, I have to wonder if coin mining has not become just a fools' game.

    Not that I'm going to, but I have an Intel i7 4930K on a system with 16GB of DDR3 and a Radeon HD 7850 with 2GB of memory on-board. I have difficulty believing that that kind of hardware would not be able to mine something of a profit even though I am the one paying for the electricity and hardware upkeep.

    So, why would a botnet herder not find any profit on my machine if he took it over ? He's not paying the electricity, I am. He didn't pay for the hardware, I did. You take those costs out and it seems logical to get some coin mining going, it should supplement the revenue stream nicely.

    Instead, they're saying that its a zero-sum game. I don't get it.

    1. lorisarvendu

      Re: So coin mining is a losing game, then ?

      Not forgetting that the value of the coin they're quoting is based on today's prices. So if (for example) you manage to mine 1 BTC today, that nets you about $570, but it's certain to cost you far more in electricity costs. Pick a number...let's say you end up with an energy bill of $800. That's a loss, so not worth mining then.

      But that 1BTC could be worth over $1000 next year, which means you will make a profit. Eventually.

      If I'd mined 1BTC this time last year it might have been worth about $70, but it would have been easier, and maybe I wouldn't have paid more than $100 in electricity costs. If I still have that bitcoin today...I'm $540 up on the deal. Which is what Bitcoin Miners have been doing for the last decade.

      Mine today at a loss, and then speculate tomorrow for a gain. You just have to wait a bit longer each year for your profit.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: So coin mining is a losing game, then ?

        "Mine today at a loss, and then speculate tomorrow for a gain. You just have to wait a bit longer each year for your profit."

        Hello, Martingale. Easiest way to win at a casino: bet on red, if you lose, double your bet and play again. It's like wandering along a train track picking up pennies. It works fine for a while.

      2. Brangdon Bronze badge

        Re: So coin mining is a losing game, then ?

        If you spent $800 by buying Bitcoins on an exchange, you get more coins than by spending the $800 on electricity for mining. If/when the price went up, you still be better off.

        1. lorisarvendu

          Re: So coin mining is a losing game, then ?

          So what happens if everyone quits mining because it's too expensive? Do we then stick at only half the available Bitcoins forever?

      3. Mark .

        Re: So coin mining is a losing game, then ?

        But if you're willing to speculate, then you could have just spent the money you would have on the electricity on Bitcoin directly. So if you instead spent that $800 on Bitcoin, you'd have 1.4 bitcoin, and would make even more money if it goes up in future. Though I take the point that some people find dealing with exchanges a hassle, and yes someone who mines at a loss today may still be better off in future than someone who doesn't mine or buy at all.

    2. Brangdon Bronze badge

      Re: So coin mining is a losing game, then ?

      To make money from mining now, you need ASICs - application specific integrated circuits that are custom-designed to mine Bitcoin. They are much more efficient than GPUs at mining (and useless for anything else).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So coin mining is a losing game, then ?

      Yeah, but the useful info stops at i7 4930k .. or maybe your radeon card is more interesting.

      Bitcoin is a crypto currency, its irrelevant how many floating number calculations your i7 can do. Its all about cryptographic calculations as used in a graphics card. A standard desktop is all but useless for mining....even with all your *[whatever you said about your computer that makes it so amazing].

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