A Starbucks store located in Buenos Aires was recently caught mining cryptocurrency using visitors’ laptops that were connected to its public WiFi network. The mining was the result of malware, which Starbucks has since taken care of. The issue was made known by Noah Dinkin, who alerted Starbucks and the public to the mining via a tweet.
According to Dinkin via his tweet below, the store’s WiFi network introduced a ten-second delay when a user first connected to it. During that time, the user’s computer was briefly used to mine for a variety of cryptocurrency called Monero. The unannounced and unauthorized use of someone’s laptop for currency mining would result in poorer computer performance, potentially making their laptop sluggish and slow while interfering with their intended activities. The activity could also have resulted in a higher electricity bill, assuming the laptops were plugged in.
Though the issue affected Starbucks customers in that store, the problem didn’t originate from Starbucks itself; the company didn’t actually control the network offered in its store. This isn’t the first time illicit cryptocurrency mining like this has happened, though, and the problem is likely to grow as the value of many cryptocurrencies rise.
Though some websites use cryptocurrency mining as a way to monetize the platform — informing visitors of the activity ahead of time, as is the proper thing to do — many others hijack the visitor’s computer instead, keeping its activities secret. The user may not realize that mining is taking place, instead being left to wonder why their computer’s performance has decreased. Some ad blockers now block mining activity, but not all of them.
The Pirate Bay has acknowledged using visitors’ computers to mine cryptocurrency, revealing that this is a monetization method that could potentially replace advertisements. Not all companies are upfront about it, though. Showtime, for example, was found earlier this year to be mining cryptocurrency with visitors’ computers sans permission or notice.