Watch Dogs Torrent Comes with Bitcoin Malware

Mining Bitcoin efficiently requires a powerful computer, and few home computers are more powerful than gaming rigs. Enterprising hackers may have corrupted a pirated version of Ubisoft's anticipated game "Watch Dogs" with insidious Bitcoin mining software.

According to the PC gaming site Gamecrastinate, a significant number of users downloading unauthorized "Watch Dogs" torrents reported a mysterious process called "winlogin.exe" (not the legitimate winlogon.exe) eating up to 25 percent of their CPUs' processing cycles. A little research pegged the most recent program using that name as a fairly powerful Bitcoin miner.

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That pirates have seeded hot titles corrupted with malware on torrent sites is hardly surprising, but using gaming rigs to mine Bitcoin is a fairly clever idea. Bitcoin is a digital cryptocurrency that users earn by volunteering their computers for complex calculations that benefit the currency's ecosystem.

A single Bitcoin is currently worth approximately $561. In theory, a moderately powerful gaming rig could generate a Bitcoin in 100 days — provided that the machine ran with absolutely no other functions for 24 hours per day with a stellar Internet connection and no overheating. Hundreds of gaming rigs tied together by malware into a botnet, however, could generate bitcoins considerably more quickly.

Attaching mining software to a demanding game such as "Watch Dogs," then, is actually a rather clever idea. A whole fleet of gaming rigs in tandem could generate Bitcoins fairly quickly and without much effort on the original hacker's part. Anyone downloading "Watch Dogs" most likely has a fairly robust machine on which to run it.

If you've installed the hacked copy of "Watch Dogs," there's not much to be done except to get rid of it, delete the software located in a folder called OaPja and run a few malware scans.

The easiest way to avoid falling prey to such scams in the future is, of course, to buy new games through legitimate channels, but video game pirates often have entire laundry lists of arguments against such a practice. In that case, at least be sure to read user comments about each torrent and avoid downloads with negative ratings.

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Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.