Facebook users’ machines could be taken over and used to mine cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin and Litcoin, security experts have warned.
The new malware – dubbed Digmine – affects desktop versions of Facebook Messenger when running inside the Google Chrome web browser, Trend Micro researchers have claimed.
Digmine works by hijacking the processing power in a desktop computer and using it to generate coins and confirm digital transactions.
This process is known as mining.
According to a blog post by Trend Micro researchers, “If the user’s Facebook account is set to log in automatically, Digmine will manipulate Facebook Messenger in order to send a link to the file to the account’s friends.”
This ensures the virus quickly spreads across Facebook and captures more processing power for mining.
Since mining Bitcoin requires a lot of processing power, it has become increasingly lucrative for criminal gangs to infect computers to do the job.
“The increasing popularity of cryptocurrency mining is drawing attackers back to the mining botnet business,” a spokesperson for Trend Micro claimed.
“And like many cybercriminal schemes, numbers are crucial—bigger victim pools equate to potentially bigger profits. The fact that they’re piggybacking on popular platforms such as social media to spread their malware is unsurprising.”
Digmine is believed to have originated in South Korea.
It has been tracked across Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, and Venezuela. Trend Micro expects it to speed further, “given the way it propagates”.
Facebook said: “We maintain a number of automated systems to help stop harmful links and files from appearing on Facebook and in Messenger.
“If we suspect your computer is infected with malware, we will provide you with a free anti-virus scan from our trusted partners.
“We share tips on how to stay secure and links to these scanners on facebook.com/help.”
Facebook users should never click on links they do not recognise.