Gaming company fined $1m after exploiting customers to mine Bitcoins

Rogue employee used hidden software on 14,000 PCs to make $3,700 in the digital currency
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Games firm ESEA has been fined $1 million (£620,000) after a rogue employee exploited the computers of 14,000 customers to mine Bitcoins.

The employee, who has since been fired, used test code to hide a GPU-based Bitcoin miner in the company’s software, which secretly installed itself onto the customers’ PCs.

The Bitcoins, said to be worth $3,700 (£2,300), have now been placed into a prize pot by the company, which also gave $7,427 (£4,617) to charity.

"At the very least your melted GPUs contributed to a good cause," the boss of ESEA Eric Thunberg told customers in a forum.

ESEA will have to pay the state of New Jersey $325,000 (£202,000) of the $1 million fine initially, with the remainder of the charge to be dropped if the firm can keep a clear record for the next ten years.

"This case should serve as a message that we are committed to protecting New Jersey consumers,” said acting attorney general John Hoffman regarding the fine, “and that we will hold accountable anyone who seeks to exploit them through misleading claims, deceptive practices or the invasion of their computer privacy."

However, ESEA has argued that the details issued by the state are inaccurate, particularly accusations of privacy issues generated by the events.

"The press release issued by the attorney general about our settlement represents a deep misunderstanding of the facts of the case, the nature of our business, and the technology in question," the company stated.

"Moving forward, it is our intent to provide our community with confidence that ESEA will be taking every possible step to protect your privacy."

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