Hackers recently targeted YouTube and hijacked the advertising system for cryptocurrency mining, but Google says it has addressed the problem.
Since Bitcoin exploded in price and other cryptocurrencies are gaining ground, the cryptocurrency market seems to be in full bloom, and many want to take advantage of it. Mining for cryptocurrency requires hefty investments in powerful rigs, but a group of hackers found a more convenient way to do it — hijacking YouTube's advertising system to display ads that exploited users' CPUs to mine cryptocurrency.
YouTube says that the scheme did not go on for long, as it promptly intervened and shut it down, removing the ads and the perpetrators. Users should no longer find any suspicious activity happening behind the scenes while they're watching YouTube videos.
YouTube Ads Used For Cryptocurrency Mining
The whole debacle surfaced last week after some people reported that their antivirus software detected suspicious activity related to cryptocurrency mining while they were watching videos on YouTube. Trend Micro researchers confirmed that YouTube ads did indeed serve as tools to tap into the CPU power of unsuspecting users and mine cryptocurrency. It seems that the ploy was the work of some lucrative hackers who exploited Google's DoubleClick ad system to insert mining code in YouTube ads. The incident occurred in several countries, including Japan, Taiwan, Spain, Italy, and France.
The mining code would essentially allow hackers to take up to 80 percent of a user's CPU power to mine cryptocurrencies. Users were unaware of it, as they unknowingly surrendered their PC's CPU power to hackers when watching an ad with the malicious code on specific YouTube ad links.
YouTube Shuts Down Cryptocurrency Hackers
Gizmodo contacted YouTube for a statement about Trend Micro's claims. A company spokesperson confirmed that hackers did exploit YouTube's ad system, but YouTube has promptly shut them down and removed the problem.
The spokesperson said that in this case, YouTube promptly blocked the ads in less than two hours, and it removed the hackers from its platforms.
"We enforce our policies through a multi-layered detection system across our platforms which we update as new threats emerge," added the spokesperson.
While the Google spokesperson said that YouTube removed dealt with the problem in less than two hours, Trend Micro indicated that the malicious ad campaign exploited YouTube users' CPUs for cryptocurrency mining for at least a week. YouTube did not comment any further on the matter, so there's no explanation yet for this discrepancy.