Some pranksters over at the online message board 4Chan have been spreading a rumor that Apple computers have a secret built-in Bitcoin-mining feature. Their instructions for accessing this "feature," however, will do serious harm to your computer.
Bitcoin is an online, independent currency which can be created, or "mined," using special software. The value of one Bitcoin (1BTC) has risen drastically since the network was first established in 2009, and now hovers around $1,000.
For that reason, and because of the highly secure, anonymous way in which Bitcoins can be bought, sold and traded, the currency has become increasingly popular.
Clearly, some 4chan users are preying on that popularity with this malicious new prank.
A graphic circulating on the Internet claims that Apple has included software for mining Bitcoin in "all their products" since 2009. To unlock this feature, the graphic claims, simply open up the command line — called the Terminal on Apple computers — and type in this code: sudo rm –rf/*
Do NOT try this out on your home machine. Not only is Apple's "secret Bitcoin mining software" a lie, but "sudo rm –rf/*" is a known piece of code: When typed on any computer with a Unix-based operating system (which includes Mac OS X), it's an instruction to delete all files and folders on the computer on which it is typed.
That piece of code doesn't work on Windows machines, but security blogger and expert Graham Cluley says Windows users should still be wary.
"It's easy to imagine how a similar hoax could be spread targeting gullible Windows users," he warns on his blog.
The 4chan message board is known for originating malicious pranks such as this one, which don't actually benefit the pranksters and seem engineered just to get a laugh at someone else's expense.
Just last week, a similar prank circulated, this time targeting Xbox One users: Someone forged a graphic with instructions that, it claimed, would make the Xbox One backward-compatible (i.e., it would let users play Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One).
In reality, following the instructions will break the Xbox One console, rendering it inoperable.