back to article Gaming co ESEA hit by $1m fine for hidden Bitcoin mining enslaver

US regulators have smacked games biz ESEA with a $1m fine for surreptitiously installing a Bitcoin miner in its software. The settlement was announced on Tuesday and means ESEA gaming will pay the state of New Jersey $325,000 of its $1m fine upfront, and the rest will be scrubbed if the company has a clean record for the next …


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  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Next time

    There will just be a line on page 96 of the EULA allowing them to use computer resources for "auxiliary purposes"

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Next time they will just decide to quietly remove it and hope nobody notices.

    There's a good reason that you get a lesser sentence if you 'fess up.

    They want people to do it.

  3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Jesus H. Christ

    The ability to trace rolled-out modules to clearly specified requirements (known as "traceability" since the early 80s or so) really never caught on, right? Well, if you don't have one, you can at least plausibly deny everything. "Our Software Assurance is shit, honest m'lord".

    I wonder WHAT ELSE is in that gaming software.

  4. miknik

    Optimised code?

    So he enslaved 14,000 PCs and made $3,700 worth of bitcoin? That's about 6 of them.

    He'll probably get hired by Microsoft.

  5. John Savard


    Why punish a company for a criminal act by one of its employees?

    The company might have been made to pay restitution to that employee's victims, but a purely punitive fine to a company whose management and stockholders were not culpable makes no sense. At least in the absence of any finding that they were negligent in supervising the employee in question.

    1. Tom_

      Re: Punishment

      Because otherwise, companies could just pick out an employee and force/bribe them take the blame even if many more people were involved in the crime.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Though this was an effective mea culpa, the state regulators have decided to make an example out of the company, and so have fined it almost a hundred times the value of its ill-gotten funny money."

    It wasn't their funny money though; it was a rogue employee that did it. If you want to make an example, then go after him. Oh, that is right, you would get hardly anything as he doesn't have deep pockets.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      That money is far less funny than the paper dollar.

  7. ThePhantomBovine

    Is this really new?

    Imagine having a top 10 free android game and implementing this in a version update. The processing power may be small, but on millions of devices chipping away? Or maybe introduced as firmware updates on millions of routers worldwide. Maybe the big companies have been embedding similar code in lots of software/firmware for other tasks for years. Ever had windows processess that overutilize the cpu for no good reason or routers that keep rebooting from overheating? (cue spooky sinister music :-) ).

  8. MondoMan

    Pipe(lined?) dream

    GPU-based Bitcoin mining is so two-years-old. The difficulty level of mining these days is such that using GPUs won't work anymore for mining, even if you're "pooling" thousands of GPUs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pipe(lined?) dream

      OK, so what should we use instead ?

      1. Archimedes_Circle

        Re: Pipe(lined?) dream

        FGPA or ASIC hardware seems to be the best bet.

    2. Chris_J

      Re: Pipe(lined?) dream

      Bitcoin mining profitability pretty much boils down to the cost of the electricity you use to run whatever hardware your mining on.

      People who pay for their 'leccy have moved to FPGA and now ASICS for this reason.

      Since its the customers footing the electric bill GPU mining would still have been worth it for the rouge dev had he gotten away with it.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time Bitcoin was shut down

    A half-baked, zero substance idea invented by 2 greedy All-Americans without any way of investigating who's profiting (2 greedy All-Americans aside) from criminal activities.

    (See El Reg article about a Police Department that paid a Bitcoin ransom)

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Time Bitcoin was shut down

      Mustachioed ex-corporal much?

  10. Tony Haines

    I'd be interested in knowing exactly how this was illegal.

    I mean, I've read the settlement and it goes on about them spying on customers (which this apparently wasn't) and it being a botnet (which it is - if you accept wikipedia's definition[1], but then is presumably just there to sound threatening). As clearly stated in the article, it looks like the announcement is full of misinformation.

    Perhaps the issue was simply doing something they didn't mention in the licencing agreement. Many programs get run without any licencing even being seen. Online games, even advertising on web-pages. I'm sure I've seen web-pages which try to do useful stuff for the host in the background. It seems a pretty grey area.

    It seems to me that ESEA have been quite unfairly treated. Although maybe they shouldn't have agreed to the settlement. Could they have agreed the wording of the announcement as part of the settlement?

    [1] "A botnet is a collection of Internet-connected programs communicating with other similar programs in order to perform tasks." Presumably all the @home style systems qualify.

  11. Old Handle

    I really fail to see how this is any worse than the malware companies routinely slip into software as part of various DRM schemes. It's long been suspected some of those could cause actual damage such as causing optical drives to fail.

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