Everyone wants to love Bitcoin, but there's no earthly reason why it should be trusted or adopted on any kind of wide scale. As if it wasn't bad enough that a security flaw has evaporated actual real money via the disastrous Mt. Gox bitcoin exchanger, now it looks like it also installs some malware.
Cyber criminals have infected hundreds of thousands of computers with a virus called "Pony" to steal bitcoins and other digital currencies, in the most ambitious cyber attack on virtual money uncovered so far, according to security firm Trustwave.
Trustwave said on Monday that it has found evidence that the operators of a cybercrime ring known as the Pony botnet have stolen some 85 virtual "wallets" that contained bitcoins and other types of digital currencies. The firm said it did not know how much digital currency was contained in the wallets.
"It is the first time we saw such a widespread presence of this type of malware. It was on hundreds of thousands of machines," said Ziv Mador, security research director with Chicago-based Trustwave.
Trustwave said it believes the crime ring is still operating, though it does not know who is running the group. The company said it has disrupted the servers that were controlling machines infected with Pony, but expects the group to launch more attacks on virtual currency users.
Just to review here, Bitcoin is not something you can actually hold in your hand, nor is it earned in the traditional sense. It is the product of computer algorithms, discovered by those who can solve complex mathematical formulas, called "miners." Once "mined," it is assigned a value set by virtual markets which are unregulated and really do represent the edge of the virtual "Wild West."
It is not ready for prime time, but it is fertile ground for criminals to exploit.