back to article Tens of thousands of 'Watch Dogs' pirates ENSLAVED by Bitcoin botmaster

Tens of thousands of pirate gamers have been enslaved in a Bitcoin botnet after downloading a cracked copy of popular game Watch Dogs. A torrent of the infected title, which supposedly has had its copy-protection removed, had almost 40,000 active users (seeders and leechers) and was downloaded a further 18,440 times on 23 May …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. trojan$

    It could very well be the second example (W32.CIH being the first) of a trojan that can physically damage hardware.

    Overheating GPUs can lead to premature failure as I found out, even as little as 10% over spec long term can make that GPU last say three years instead of four before it shows problems.

    A lot of people now are spending extra to add temperature feedback to their $900 cards to prevent this, in fact OCZ sells a kit to do just that.

    disclaimer: I don't work for them. Yet. :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Re. trojan$

      Could you explain a little further? I thought that GPUs (at least the ones over 100 quid) had several temperature sensors, and the driver package comes with monitoring utilities. Those _should_ cause a system reboot or a step down of the cards performance before it overheats.

      I mine on my various GPUs, and all the various mining software will report the card temps, most being able to use a target temp and cutoff temps.

      It usually seems to be the fans tend to fail first on cards in mining rigs which (IMHO) is due in part to the cards often being mounted vertically rather than horizontally, running the fans at 90 degrees to their expected rotation. Plus no real filtering of the air being used to cool them often ends up with gunk on the fans.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Re. trojan$

      "Overheating GPUs can lead to premature failure as I found out, even as little as 10% over spec long term can make that GPU last say three years instead of four before it shows problems."

      Nothing like a bit ok anecdotal evidence on a sample of 1 to prove your point.

      1. Steven Raith

        Re: Re. trojan$

        It used to be a problem with older GPUs that weren't very good at throttling, or where the thermal sensors weren't linked to the VRMs etc, but as far as I'm aware, modern GPUs are much, much better at dealing with high thermal loads than previous generations.

        Much like how I've not seen a burned out CPU since the days of the Barton class Athlon XP - which was the last CPU I can think off that didn't have a thermal cut out built into it, if I recall correctly....

        Steven R

        1. foxbatgb

          Re: Re. trojan$

          > Much like how I've not seen a burned out CPU since the days of the Barton

          > class Athlon XP which was the last CPU I can think off that didn't have a

          > thermal cut out built into it, if I recall correctly....

          I have painful memories of that one. The HSF on my then-brand new 1400 fell off because I hadn't secured it properly to the lugs on the socket. There was a *thunk* followed by no more than 2 seconds of "wtf was that?" time before black screen, blue smoke and a funny smell. 120 quid up the chimney.

          1. Steven Raith
            Thumb Up

            Re: Re. trojan$

            On the other hand, I turned the wick up on my XP2400 (2.0ghz, 266 FSB) to 2.4GHZ (above XP3200 spec IIRC, minus the cache - 200FSB x 12) and had a £200 CPU for £80.

            I still have that PC, and need to fire it up to see if:

            A: The RAID 0 array of 2x120gb HDDs is still intact, and

            B: If so, to recover all the por...I mean, pictures, from it, then junk the hardware. I have no use for it any more.

            I'll put £5 on it starting up fine after six years of being idle (And after I've hoovered out the spiders - I can hear them scrabbling around in side when I move it).

            Or just going pop, one or 'tother. An Aero 7 cooler (remember those monstrosities) kept it cool, and the controller that came with it kept it just shy of 80deg under load.

            Awsume little CPUs those, more bang for buck than semtex!

            Steven R

            1. Peter2 Silver badge

              Re: Re. trojan$

              I once saw someone take out the heatsink/fan on one of those Athlon XP chips while the CPU was off to check which type of processor it was before turning it back on.

              By the time we figured out why it was stuck at POST (the smoke was the give away) and the guy pulled the power the CPU had melted the entire assembly it sits on and was having a good go at burning a hole strait through the board. It's the only time i've sever seen that, it was quite impressive.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Re. trojan$

                Had this happen to a laptop once at 3am. Fortunately it was an old clunker, and the machine was near death (POST failure, possible corrupted BIOS chip and other issues) anyway.

                I turned it on, and less-than-oops-seconds later realized that the heatsink and fan was sitting on my desk. Poor CPU didn't stand a chance :-( Yes it WAS an AMD, not any more.

                Tried different non-cooked CPU and it did work somewhat, so maybe that old chip was the issue.

                It even booted to Windows with a SCST AMD rather than the dual core.

                (and why can't AC's post symbols)

      2. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: Re. trojan$

        "Overheating GPUs can lead to premature failure as I found out, even as little as 10% over spec long term can make that GPU last say three years instead of four before it shows problems."

        Nothing like a bit ok anecdotal evidence on a sample of 1 to prove your point.

        He's only provided anecdotal evidence, but you are being a massive dick for not understanding that not only is he 100% absolutely right, but that that it is a well known fact that as you place higher voltages through an IC or use it at higher temperatures, the shorter a working life that IC will have.

        However, a GPU will be sold to work at a certain spec for a certain period of time. It might be rated for 3 years warranty. Using it at 100% utilisation for 3 years should not mean it would stop working after 3 years, but it might mean that it stops working after 4 years instead of after 9 years with modest usage.

        The charts on this page should make you understand:

        For more detailed info, this article was published in Spectrum:

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Re. trojan$

          I've only ever had two things burn out on me. Motherboards, and a single GPU.

          The motherboards were down to a faulty PSU. Took testing it numerous times to figure out the issue (the cable going directly to the mobo was normally fine, but occasionally shot down volts above its limit, burnt out the connection killing the mobo, no mobo power no power anywhere)

          The GPU was entirely my fault, and was again down to power. Plugged in a PCIe card, turned it all on, low power warning, turned it off, but forgot to unplug etc, plugged in the two PCIe power cable bits from the PSU, turned on, nothing. Best guess is there was charge in the line, and I blew something when I plugged it in.

          Everything PSU related, the GPU being entirely my own fault.

    3. d3rrial

      Re: Re. trojan$

      Isn't OCZ bankrupt?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's almost justice but two wrongs do not make a right... ;)

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Thou speakest thruthfully, and nary a voice could say nay to that.

      But pirates being hoisted by miscreants . . . I just can't bring myself to get all hot and bothered by it either.

      On the other hand, if miscreants are now actively targeting pirated software, well let's say that that could be a much greater incentive to walk the Straight & Narrow than anything the police could pull.

      And that makes me even more unlikely to get up in arms about this.

      Because I pay for my games.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        "Because I pay for my games."

        Have you never used a cracked executable with your legitimate software?

        Something as simple as allowing you to play your game without the CD in the drive and slowing everything up makes it worth-while.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          I think the last game I bought that needed the CD in the drive to play it was Diablo II, which was released some 14 years ago.

          Also, this could be easily circumvented without having to resort to using a cracked copy of the game, by making an ISO image of the disk and mounting it in a virtual drive, using any one of a number of free applications to do so.

          1. Mark .

            "by making an ISO image of the disk"

            ...which at the time would still have been piracy.

            1. Steven Raith

              Might have still been piracy on the strictest interpretation, but at least it didn't put you at risk of malware, eh?

  3. jhml2011

    Three years old still sounds like a pretty long lifetime for a piece of eqipment that might be replaced every six to 12 months....

  4. Extra spicey vindaloo
    Thumb Down

    Given the performance of Watch Dogs on my system,

    I doubt that anyone could tell the difference!

  5. Pypes

    Torrent group?

    I thought they were a publisher.

    They certainly appeared at the start of most of my Amiga games :P

  6. David Austin

    I'd like to think people who fileshare (Especially the latest and greatest) would look out for this kind of thing: At least keep an On-Demand virus scanner kicking around to check stuff that comes in.

    Guess this is one of the unintended consequences of lowering the barrier of entry to file sharing, as in ye olde days, you had to be reasonably technically inclined to get the firewalls et all configured.

    Still, 18,000+ downloads on a game that hadn't hit retail yet? Looking at those numbers, you can understand AAA Game publishers new(ish) strategy of not completely stopping piracy, but increasing the time to crack it to at least grab the day 1 sales.

    1. Elmer Phud

      "At least keep an On-Demand virus scanner kicking around to check stuff that comes in."

      and also set to re-scan once it's all arrived.

    2. Mark .

      On the flipside, if it's news, it means it's not common, so what you say may well be true after all.

      Some would have us believe downloading pirated binaries is a sure way to get viruses - reading this news story makes it seem more a case of one single incident being newsworthy, and even this has been discovered and now removed from most sites.

  7. RyokuMas

    Monetizing the pirates...

    Call me a tinfoil hatter, but what's the possibility that this version was deliberately released early by the publishers? Piggy-back a bitcoin miner onto the back and release to torrents under a pseudonym, and if people complain? well they should have bought the legit version in the first place.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      I do think that, if proven, that kind of hijinks lands you right in jail territory.

      Given the difficulty of game publishers, I don't think that that is the kind of problem they wish to pile on themselves intentionally.

      Now, maybe one disgruntled cubicle programmer who got keyboard rage after one to many weeks of crunch time . . possible. But as a corporate strategy ? No.

    2. TopOnePercent

      Re: Monetizing the pirates...

      If a reliable crypto currency ever emerges (sorry BitCoiners, it just isn't, yet) this may well become the licencing model of the future for software.

      It's possible it could become more difficult to escape than is worth the effort, which is pretty much ideal in licencing terms, and moves everyone onto a pay as you work/play model.

  8. K

    Publishers missing a trick?

    I'd gladly had over 5% of my GPU and CPU for a free game ;)

    1. king of foo

      Re: Publishers missing a trick?

      ...I suspect there will be an Xbox/PS "patch" released shortly...

  9. Cliff

    How much mined?

    Seeing as we're into dedicated hardware farms to mine btc at the moment, I'll bet it netted maybe a few hundred dollars tops

  10. Andrew Tyler 1

    This is probably among the worst nightmares of a game developer. Sure, it might make people think twice about pirating it (for a day or two), but suddenly you have all the earliest "reviews" claiming the their game is poorly optimized and runs terribly. As for the original pirate release group, I can't see it as too winning a strategy either. As I understand it, 16,000 people devoting 25% of their GPU resources for a few hours probably isn't a huge payoff. A banking trojan would surely be more profitable. Then again on the upside for the publishers, because it isn't something so droll as a keylogger or bank trojan, it gets news coverage along the lines of "piracy is dangerous" plastered all over the place. I'm sure a significant fraction of the stuff on the torrent sites contains much more malicious nasties that cause a lot more damage than 30 watts wasted and your ripped off game not working as well as it should

    I was actually thinking of picking this one up at some point when the price dropped, but it seems even the legitimate copies suck a lot of computing power without a tremendous amount to show for it. That's kind of a shame. Even though in the end I'm sure it's just another GTA clone, the whole cyberpunk motif does strike enough of a chord with me to pique my interest.

  11. Jodo Kast

    Bitcoin a juicy target

    With bitcoin, it's such a juicy target.

    No one is in control... just ripe to be taken down.

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Tenacal

      Re: 3 years instead of 4?

      One with financial limitations, perhaps?

      A "self respecting gamer" would presumably be buying high end cards every year and the most recent releases don't come cheap. For annual upgrades you either need a fair amount of spare cash around or you buy a card from a few years ago and constantly replace that before it becomes too obsolete.

    2. JLV

      self-respecting gamers (true story)

      (young consultant) - do you think I should get the new MSI xxxyyy video card? NCIX has a steal, only $800.

      (me) $800 for a video card?

      (consultant) - well, it's usually $900.

      (me) - what games do you play?

      (consultant) - ... well, I don't really play that much. But it's a really good deal.

      (me) - I can see that Sharepoint consulting is lucrative. good thing too that you live at your parents' & don't have a girlfriend.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE. Re. 3 years instead of 4

    I still say that Bitcoin (BTc) is actually a classified experiment into AI using all those parallel processors as a primitive-but-effective neural net.

    The inventor has stayed silent since 2011, because he is aware of this and is actually working undercover for the US military who are in the process of using the data thus gained to build a 2nd gen AI.

    ie machines designing machines.

    Would make sense, the algorithm to actually decide which BTc is valid is secret but apparently "non random and post quantum" which suggests an AI might be responsible.

    Using all those surplus graphics cards as well as custom chips as a heuristic algorithm based NN would make sense as unbeknown to the user quantum interactions within the chips could be encoded in the output and later reassembled.

    See papers on arXiv (not mine, but others have suggested this possibility)

  14. JCitizen

    Wow! Talk about a distrubuted computing...

    project! A massive way to get enough power to mine Bitcoins. Everyone should have seen this one coming a mile off - not that it would have prevented it.

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