The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs is celebrating another victory in its war against cryptocurrency malware.
“Prized”, produced by Ohio-based developer Equiliv Investments and Ryan Ramminger, was an Android app that allegedly mined cryptocurrencies using the mining power of the mobile devices it infected. The app was available in the Google Play store and the company’s website, allegedly luring users by letting them earn points towards various prizes.
In the background, the app covertly mined cryptocurrencies including Dogecoin, Litecoin and Quarkcoin, which were then relayed to the app’s creators. The mining operation saps the device’s computing power, drains the battery, and can incur costs of time and effort for its removal. The charges noted that on a mobile device, with its small computing capacity, the effects are more felt.
Although a mobile device is not nearly powerful enough to mine bitcoin, it can be successfully used for cryptocurrencies requiring less hashing power.
Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said that “the app allegedly turned out to be a Trojan horse for intrusive, invasive malware that was potentially damaging to expensive smartphones and other mobile devices.”
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It was further alleged that the app functioned maliciously despite its assurance to users that it is “free of malware, spyware, time bombs, and viruses.” Furthermore, it apparently did not deliver on its promises for prizes.
The app was investigated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in conjunction with the Division, both of whom charged that it violated their respective regulations.
They have ordered the app removed from all sources and have warned its creators not to market such software again the future. They also levied a fine of $50,000, $44,800 of which will be waived provided that the defendants adhere to the orders for the next three years. The company must also “regularly provide the Division and the FTC with financial, personnel, and other records intended to help ensure their full compliance with the terms of the settlement” for the next 20 years.
Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, declared, “Hijacking consumers’ mobile devices with malware to mine virtual currency isn’t just deplorable; it’s also illegal. These scammers are now prohibited from trying such a scheme again.”
Android-based phones are generally more susceptible to malware. Last year, Google removed a number of apps that turned out to be malware that covertly mined bitcoins.
For the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, the settlement is its second victory in as many months over software used for covert cryptocurrency mining. In May, the Division settled with Tidbit, an MIT student project that replaced advertising income with mining revenue.