The blockchain bonanza is over for graphics card makers

Enlarge / A Philadelphia cryptocurrency miner snapped this shot of his rig for us earlier this year. (credit: Matthew Freilich)

For almost a year, cryptocurrency miners have snapped up all the graphics cards they could get their hands on. That was a financial windfall for Nvidia and AMD, the leading makers of consumer graphics cards. Both reported soaring profits their last two quarters.

But on Thursday, Nvidia reported its financial results for its second fiscal quarter, which ended on July 29. The results were pretty good overall, with strong demands for Nvidia products for AI and data center applications. However, cryptocurrency-related demand has cratered.

“Our revenue outlook had anticipated cryptocurrency-specific products declining to approximately $100 million,” said Nvidia CFO Colette Kress. “Actual crypto-specific product revenue was $18 million.”

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How Someone Can Use Your Mac’s Processing Power with Cryptojacking

If your Mac seems to suddenly be running hot, with the fans making more noise than usual, your battery runtime has taken a nosedive, or you’ve noticed that your Mac seems to be slowing down, you may be experiencing the effects of cryptojacking.

Of course, there are plenty of other reasons why your Mac could be misbehaving as outlined above; hot summer days can make your Mac run its fans at a higher rate, battery runtime can be affected by the type of processes you’re running, such as video or audio processing, and the Mac’s processors may simply be engaged in running multiple threads from multiple apps, keeping things a bit tied up.

But you could also be a victim of cryptojacking. In this Rocket Yard Guide, we’re going to take a look at cryptocurrency, how it’s mined, and how it may be affecting your Mac.

What Is Cryptojacking?

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Hackers find creative way to steal $7.7 million without being detected

Enlarge (credit: Henry Burrows / Flickr)

Hackers managed to steal $7.7 million dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency from the platform known as KICKICO by using a novel technique—destroying existing coins and then creating new ones totaling the same amount and putting them in hacker-controlled addresses, KICKICO officials said.

The technique evaded KICKICO’s security measures because it didn’t change the number of KICK tokens issued on the network. Such security measures are generally designed to spot thefts and other malicious actions by detecting sudden shifts in total cryptocurrency funds available on the market. The unknown attackers were able to destroy the existing coins and create new ones by first obtaining the secret cryptographic key controlling the KICKICO smart contract. KICKICO officials didn’t learn of the breach until they received complaints from several users reporting that $800,000 dollars’ worth of digital coins were missing from their wallets.

KICKICO officials said they

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Declining cryptocurrency prices are making graphics cards affordable again

Enlarge / Data from PC Part Picker (credit: Timothy B. Lee, data from PC Part Picker)

About a year ago, graphics card prices started to go crazy. Then in early 2018, things got even crazier. The price of a Radeon RX 570—a mid-range graphics card popular for cryptocurrency mining—soared from under $200 in April 2017 to over $450 in February 2018. Over the same period, a high-end RX 580 soared from around $230 in April 2017 to as much as $540 in February 2018.

But since then, graphics-card prices have been falling steadily, according to data collected by PC Part Picker. An RX 570 fell to around $350 by the end of April. And you can now get one for a bit more than $300. An RX 580 now goes for around $330.

When I visited my local Best Buy back in January, the store was asking for

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Business and gaming boost PC shipments for the first time since 2012

Supposing you’ve followed the PC’s steady downward spiral over the last few years, the following news might surprise you: Between April and June worldwide PC shipments marked a 1.4 percent increase compared to the same timeframe last year. Market analysis firms Gartner and IDC agree that it’s largely due to business customers upgrading to Windows 10 laptops, desktops and workstations. But the latter asserts that shipments totaled 62.3 million units (representing a 2.7 increase) while the former reports shipments jumped by 62.1 million units (a 1.4 percent increase). The biggest areas of growth? Premium models and entry-level machines.

Source: Gartner, IDC

Backdoored images downloaded 5 million times finally removed from Docker Hub

Enlarge (credit: Oren neu dag / Wikimedia)

A single person or group may have made as much as $90,000 over 10 months by spreading 17 malicious images that were downloaded more than 5 million times from Docker Hub, researchers said Wednesday. The repository finally removed the submissions in May, more than eight months after receiving the first complaint.

Docker images are packages that typically include a pre-configured application running on top of an operating system. By downloading them from Docker Hub, administrators can save huge amounts of set-up time. Last July and August one or more people used the Docker Hub account docker123321 to upload three publicly available images that contained surreptitious code for mining cryptocurrencies. In September, a GitHub user complained one of the images contained a backdoor.

Eight months of inaction

Neither the Docker Hub account nor the malicious images it submitted were taken down. Over the

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Bitcoin prices continue to fall as yet another exchange reports a breach

Enlarge (credit: Thomas Trutschel / Getty Images News)

The value of bitcoin and many other digital currencies fell to their lowest levels this year after South Korean exchange Coinrail said a hack over the weekend stole virtual coin estimated to be worth more than $37 million.

In a post published Monday morning, Coinrail said hackers obtained about 30 percent of its coin and token reserves. The stolen coins included those designated as NPXS, ATX, NPER, and DENT. A wallet address reportedly belonging to the attackers showed the value of the pilfered coins was as much as $37 million. Coinrail’s statement said officials took the exchange offline and moved the remainder of its assets to cold storage as officials review the security system and work with law enforcement to investigate what happened. The statement made no mention of if or how the exchange might reimburse customers for the losses.

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Apple just banned cryptocurrency mining on iOS devices

(credit: Jhaymesisviphotography)

Apple recently announced new restrictions on the use of cryptocurrencies on iPhones and iPads, a change first noticed by Apple Insider on Monday.

“Apps may not mine for cryptocurrencies unless the processing is performed off device,” Apple’s app store guidelines for iOS now say. This requirement was absent from the same document just a few weeks ago.

Apple’s new policy is apparently motivated in part by concerns that cryptocurrency mining could drain the batteries of mobile devices. “Apps, including any third party advertisements displayed within them, may not run unrelated background processes, such as cryptocurrency mining,” the policy states.

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Cryptocurrency has been great for GPU makers—that might change soon

Enlarge / Mostly bare shelves in the graphics card case at a Washington, DC, Best Buy in January. (credit: Timothy B. Lee)

Nvidia announced its financial results on Thursday, and they were spectacular. For the company’s first fiscal quarter—which runs from late January through late April—the company had revenues of $3.2 billion. That’s up 10 percent from the previous quarter and up 66 percent over the last year. Profits were even more impressive, rising 11 percent from the previous quarter and 145 percent from a year earlier.

A big reason for this: the soaring value of ether and other cryptocurrencies in recent months created a ton of demand for graphics cards to mine them. That surging demand caused the street price of some high-end graphics cards to more than double between mid-2017 and February 2018.

It’s a sensitive subject for major graphics-card makers because their most important market in

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Why this year’s insane graphics-card price surge might be over

Enlarge / Radeon graphics card price data (left axis) from PC Part Picker. Ether price data (right axis) from Etherscan.io. (credit: Timothy B. Lee / Ars Technica)

The massive computing power of high-end consumer graphics cards make them ideal for mining Ethereum and a number of lesser-known cryptocurrencies. (Bitcoin’s simpler mining algorithm long ago came to be dominated by custom ASICs, making GPU-based bitcoin mining unprofitable.) As a result, the cryptocurrency boom that began last year led to a boom in demand for graphics cards.

Prices soared last summer, then soared even more in early 2018. By February, the going rate for high-end graphics cards like the Radeon RX 570 and RX 580 was more than double what it had been nine months earlier.

But now the graphics-card boom seems to be coming to an end.

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Why this year’s insane graphics-card price surge might be over

Enlarge / Radeon graphics card price data (left axis) from PC Part Picker. Ether price data (right axis) from Etherscan.io. (credit: Timothy B. Lee / Ars Technica)

The massive computing power of high-end consumer graphics cards make them ideal for mining Ethereum and a number of lesser-known cryptocurrencies. (Bitcoin’s simpler mining algorithm long ago came to be dominated by custom ASICs, making GPU-based bitcoin mining unprofitable.) As a result, the cryptocurrency boom that began last year led to a boom in demand for graphics cards.

Prices soared last summer, then soared even more in early 2018. By February, the going rate for high-end graphics cards like the Radeon RX 570 and RX 580 was more than double what it had been nine months earlier.

But now the graphics-card boom seems to be coming to an end.

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Why this year’s insane graphics-card price surge might be over

Enlarge / Radeon graphics card price data (left axis) from PC Part Picker. Ether price data (right axis) from Etherscan.io. (credit: Timothy B. Lee / Ars Technica)

The massive computing power of high-end consumer graphics cards make them ideal for mining Ethereum and a number of lesser-known cryptocurrencies. (Bitcoin’s simpler mining algorithm long ago came to be dominated by custom ASICs, making GPU-based bitcoin mining unprofitable.) As a result, the cryptocurrency boom that began last year led to a boom in demand for graphics cards.

Prices soared last summer, then soared even more in early 2018. By February, the going rate for high-end graphics cards like the Radeon RX 570 and RX 580 was more than double what it had been nine months earlier.

But now the graphics-card boom seems to be coming to an end.

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Two founders of cryptocurrency offering arrested, charged with fraud

Enlarge / The US Securities and Exchange Commission seal hangs on the facade of its building September 18, 2008 in Washington, DC. (credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The creators of an initial coin offering (ICO) once endorsed by Floyd Mayweather and DJ Khaled have been arrested and indicted on separate federal securities fraud charges brought by federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Earlier this year, the SEC shut down another ICO, known as AriseBank.

In 2017, according to the SEC, Sohrab “Sam” Sharma and Robert Farkas, who founded Centra Tech, managed to raise $32 million from thousands of people for their “CTR Token,” an Ether-based coin.

The organizers had claimed in 2017 that they had a Visa and MasterCard debit card service that would allow users to “instantly convert hard-to-spend cryptocurrencies”—but no such relationship with those companies apparently existed.

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Google bans cryptomining Chrome extensions because they refuse to play by the rules

Enlarge / Mining: no longer welcome in Chrome. (credit: Jeremy Buckingham / Flickr)

After a policy that previously permitted them, Google has decided to remove any and all Chrome extensions that mine for cryptocurrencies after finding that too many developers didn’t play by the company’s rules.

Google allowed Chrome extensions that performed mining with the proviso that the extensions clearly disclosed that they performed mining and performed no activity but mining. About 10 percent of extensions that mined within the browser followed these rules, but some 90 percent didn’t. Instead, they mined surreptitiously, driving up people’s electricity bills and running down their batteries without any informed consent on the user’s behalf.

In response to this continued misbehavior, Google has decided to ban any and all cryptomining extensions. Effective immediately, the Chrome Web Store will no longer accept any extensions that mine for cryptocurrencies and, starting in June, will remove

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A “tamper-proof” currency wallet just got trivially backdoored by a 15-year-old

Enlarge (credit: Saleem Rashid)

For years, executives at France-based Ledger have boasted their specialized hardware for storing cryptocurrencies is so securely designed that resellers or others in the supply chain can’t tamper with the devices without it being painfully obvious to end users. The reason: “cryptographic attestation” that uses unforgeable digital signatures to ensure that only authorized code runs on the hardware wallet.

“There is absolutely no way that an attacker could replace the firmware and make it pass attestation without knowing the Ledger private key,” officials said in 2015. Earlier this year, Ledger’s CTO said attestation was so foolproof that it was safe to buy his company’s devices on eBay.

On Tuesday, a 15-year-old from the UK proved these claims wrong. In a post published to his personal blog, Saleem Rashid demonstrated proof-of-concept code that had allowed him to backdoor the Ledger Nano S, a $100

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Ether plunges after SEC says “dozens” of ICO investigations underway

Enlarge (credit: BTC Keychain)

The price of ether, the cryptocurrency of the Ethereum network, has fallen below $500 for the first time this year. The decline comes days after a senior official from the Securities and Exchange Commission acknowledged that the agency had “dozens” of open investigations into initial coin offerings. The price of ether has fallen 19 percent in the last 24 hours, from $580 to $470.

“We’re doing obviously a lot in the crypto space, and we’re seeing a lot in the crypto space,” said Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, at a conference on Thursday. “We are very active, and I would just expect to see more and more.”

The SEC’s decision to aggressively police cryptocurrency offerings is particularly significant for the Ethereum community because many new cryptocurrency offerings are built on top of the Ethereum platform. People creating a new token on

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New York power companies can now charge Bitcoin miners more

Enlarge / Cryptocurrency mining in operation. (credit: Getty Images)

On Wednesday, the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) ruled that municipal power companies could charge higher electricity rates to cryptocurrency miners who try to benefit from the state’s abundance of cheap hydroelectric power.

Over the years, Bitcoin’s soaring price has drawn entrepreneurs to mining. Bitcoin mining enterprises have become massive endeavors, consuming megawatts of power on some grids. To minimize the cost of that considerable power draw, mining companies have tried to site their operations in towns with cheap electricity, both in the US and around the world. In the US, regions with the cheapest energy tend to be small towns with hydroelectric power. (Politico recently wrote extensively about the Bitcoin mining boom in Washington state’s mid-Columbia valley, a hotspot for cheap hydro.)

But mining booms in small US towns are not always met with approval. A group

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Apple takes a stance on crypto-miners in apps

Calendar 2, the Mac App that rolled out an update bundled with a crypto-miner that went berserk, was removed from iTunes shortly after news of its controversial new feature came out. Now, its developer has provided more details about what happened, giving us an idea of how Apple will deal with apps loaded with cryptocurrency miners in the future. Gregory Magarshak, founder of Calendar 2’s developer Qbix, told us that his company didn’t pull the app. Apple was the one that yanked it around an hour after the developer announced that it’s removing the miner altogether, making its stance on apps with crypto-miners a bit clearer than before.

Source: Calendar 2 (iTunes)

Cryptocurrencies fall as Google announces ad ban

Enlarge (credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images)

Google is banning ads related to cryptocurrency from its vast advertising network, effective in June. The move follows a similar decision by Facebook in January.

The move comes as cryptocurrencies—and especially “initial coin offerings” of new digital tokens—have come under increasing scrutiny by regulators. Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission warned that many cryptocurrency exchanges are operating outside the law. Authorities have alleged that some cryptocurrency offerings are outright frauds, while many others are just extraordinarily risky investments.

Cryptocurrency markets reacted negatively to the news. The price of bitcoin is down about 6 percent since the Wall Street Journal first reported the new policy early Wednesday morning. Other major currencies, including Ethereum and Litecoin, are also down modestly.

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