Android and the Bitcoin Miners

unnamedNo its not the name of a band, and yes it does sound pretty James Bond meets Thor / Iron Man i.e. like daft fantastic …but the title above seems, nevertheless to have some basis in truth. Android, famously open source is now  perhaps infamously Open Sauce. By the time you have read this your favourite Android phone, sitting seemingly innocently in your trouser pocket may have been engaged in a sort of co-operative mining subterfuge in pursuit of untold riches of the virtual yet transferable coinage of the Gods of Ether…Bitcoin.. Oh yes, isn’t technology wonderful?

So what’s happening exactly? Well according to Stuart Dredge, technology expert at The Guardian newspaper there are millions of Android devices engaged in actively mining Bitcoin…….without their owner having the foggiest idea that it is happening. The words “stealth” may be applied by a more generous soul than I, to my mind its fraud and deception on a grand scale. It happens when an app you have downloaded contains some code which is activated once it detects a data link is possible and then gets to work hooning your data allowance and sucking the life blood from your battery. Researchers have already identified a couple of apps which are sitting on about 10 million Android phones right now doing their dirty deeds. This may be the tip of a very unappealing iceberg.

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The serious point here is that this is exploiting faithful and loyal Android users in a way that can only be described as dishonest and fraudulent. The devices are using the phones data connectivity to mine for Bitcoins, i.e. stealing bandwidth. The user gets to pay for the bandwidth but doesn’t get to enjoy the fruits of the ill begotten gains made via this stolen bandwidth.  A double whammy too because this mining activity drains power like kryptonite drains Superman. The continual re charging of the device costs money (real money on someone’s electricity bill) and reduced the life expectancy of the device.

The mining activity happened as soon as the app containing the code is downloaded. The code is launched and the CPU mining gets under way, whilst connecting to a dynamic domain for an anonymous mining pool. All the mining data is sent to a central database where the analysis takes place. Presumably this is the place where coinage bought up from the data is extracted.

If Android is to avoid a splurge of bad PR, they’d better sort out this weakness sooner rather than later as it’s hard to see the general public welcoming the exploitation of their bandwidth without reward. beware the” no armed” bandit!

 

Bitcoin

bitcoin pic 3Bitcoin explained, or not. Can anyone explain Btcoins in a way that makes perfectly rational sense to a non-clued up majority? Bitcoins, we hear about this mysterious currency from time to time, whether it is in relation to the so called inventor / founder turning up in Malaysia and denying all knowledge or whether it’s the unemployed chap who accidentally lost 4 million pounds worth by chucking out a few old hard drives. Today we hear that Wikipedia is considering accepting these as donations to its cause. What next? Loyaltybit points on my clubcard for spending  actual Bitcoins.  In fact are there any physical Bitcoins, there are certainly lots of photographs of lovely piles of these virtual coins….why?  …

This month we notice continues coverage in the news about companies established with the sole purpose of mining Bitcoins. That is to say they attract millions of pounds, dollars and other boring real world cash investment on real stock markets with which they invest in factories to build powerful servers to create or mine the Bitcoins. It’s like the elusive Black Panther of the Cotswolds  or Somerset or wherever the Black Panther kept getting sighted. Very hard to know if any of these Bitcoin sightings or explanations are anything but a high flown prank by some megalomaniac IT / nerd. Who be dat? You may well ask. Its rumoured to be . well ,  er …..well its only a rumour.

The fact is however that a company called  KnC Miner in Sweden is a real company and it is spending more money that they care to detail on building numerous computers at a cost of 10 thousand pounds each with which people can to “mine” for Bitcoins. Well excuse us for being nonplussed but why, how, where ? Astonishingly KnC Miner have just announced that within four hours of putting these on  sale they have orders for over 2 million us dollars worth. Its not like buying you pick and shovel for the old school gold rush then is it?  “We are overwhelmed by the positive response we have gotten and we will continue to produce the best possible mining hardware for our customers,” said co-founder Andreas Kennemar. Can’t argue with the sales figures but frankly ..what does it all mean?

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How and why are Bitcoins valuable?  Hard to find? So is a four leafed clover but it doesn’t make it valuable and that’s something that’s real and does exist. I have seen one !. So is the mutated humorous root vegetable, but its not worth a lot once the laughter fades. Bitcoin on the other hand, a rare beast indeed so rare that they seem unlikely to exist. Most of us haven’t seen a Bitcoins and out of the many people I have asked, neither has anyone else. That’s because they don’t exist as material things, they are a series of numbers. Big Deal. Yawn.

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Get this, in Sweden KnC are building a 43 thousand square foot data centre for…you guessed it, for back up capacity for their customers who are mining the Bitcoin. Ho h oho… what? But then again this malarkey has proved itself profitable as the company, only a couple of years into its existence says it made 15 million dollars profit last year on a turnover of 75 million. Whose laughing now.? Well…. No one because they don’t get the joke. Why Sweden? because its cold. Like Facebook and Google before them, who have both huge purpose built data centres in this corner of the world, the advantages of the Nordic chill are well understood in the world of data centres. Keeps the server cooling costs down (mind you the outgoings on company thermal underwear must be through the roof!)….Wait a minute… what was that? Bitcoins? Haven’t got a clue, but perhaps some of our more switched on readers will let us know. Please!.