How bitcoin makes online players lucrative targets

Tuesday, bitcoin—the online currency whose had a recent date with Congress—reached an all-time high, hitting a value of $900. Of course there are risks associated with the boom. It’s so volatile that it’s foolish to list its current asking price, which can swing by fifty percent in an afternoon. Another danger: bitcoin make those of us who play online games, like CounterStrike, potential victims of bitcoin mining. 

That’s what happened when a rouge employee at the E-Sports Entertainment Association schemed to place on players’ computers malware that would mine for the precious currency. In case you’re unfamiliar with the intricacies of bitcoin mining, it’s pretty fascinating. Because bitcoin is—I can’t resist—a two-bit operation, it crowd-sources its banking transactions, relying on the computers of volunteers to power its transactions. To compensate those who let their computers run bitcoin algorithms, the network holds a lottery, giving away 25 bitcoins every 10 minutes to the lucky donor. The above picture is what a typical bitcoin operation looks like.

But when larges numbers of players come together on a server to play an online game, their hardware can be utilized as a supercomputer. All it takes is spy software called a “botnet.” While the accused was only able to mine 30 bitcoins, yesterday that was a value of almost $17,000. It just another reminder, as with the N.S.A., and free-to-play whale-hunting, that we are oblivious to what’s going on in the background while playing.