An advisor to President Vladimir Putin has claimed that as many as a quarter of computers in Russia are infected with cryptocurrency mining malware.
Herman Klimenko, who advises Putin on issues related to the internet, recently told a domestic broadcaster that "it is estimated that 20-30% of devices are infected with this virus", according to Moscow-based news service RBC.
Mining is an energy intensive process by which new transactions are added to a blockchain, minting new coins for the miner in the process. In the past, cybercriminals have sought to generate funds by using malicious software to effectively hijack computers remotely and use their processing power to mine.
Yet Klimenko – who once said that accepting bitcoin for payment constitutes a crime – is receiving pushback against his claims, including from another Russian government official. Dmitry Marinichev, who serves as Russia's internet ombudsman, called the claim "nonsense" in an interview with RBC, adding that such a scale of infection would be hard to miss.
According to RBC, other cybersecurity experts are also calling foul on Klimenko's claims.
Russian anti-virus software developer Kapersky Lab told the news service that its data shows that roughly 6 of its customers have been targeted by mining malware since the start of 2017. Another Russian anti-virus vendor, Doctor Web, also indicated that the true number of affected devices is far lower than the amount claimed by the Putin advisor.
"If it were about 20-30%, it would be an epidemic and everyone would know about it. There are infections by miners, but it's impossible to say that they are infected with a third of users," Vyacheslav Medvedev, an analyst for Doctor Web, said of the claims.
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