October 19, 2021

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Malware With Your Coffee? Starbucks Customers Sent To The Virtual Mines...To Find Bitcoins

“Free” Wi-Fi isn’t necessarily so. The Wi-Fi provided in a Starbucks store in Buenos Aires was recently discovered to be planting malware onto customer’s laptops. This is another lesson in how cybersecurity can affect even the most innocuous corner-store businesses.

The malware forced a 10-second delay when logging on to the store’s Wi-Fi network, during which time the computer’s processing power was diverted to “cryptocurrency mining”. Cryptocurrency mining is performing the complex calculations required to create cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (in this case, the malware generated another cryptocurrency called Monero).  So the customers were having to briefly visit the virtual mines in order to earn their coffee!

A customer discovered the malware and brought it to the attention of Starbucks via Twitter in a post that was shared thousands of times. Even though Starbucks apparently wasn’t complicit, it ended up wearing the cost of the exploit in terms of customer complaints and reputational damage.

Starbucks responded by blaming its internet provider, and saying it would ensure that the issue would be resolved at that store so that its customers’ processing power isn’t siphoned off any longer.

The thing is – it is Starbuck’s brand that took the hit, not the internet provider.  Again a reminder that your supply chain in all areas is often your point of greatest vulnerability.  Are your providers sending your customers to the mines?

Harry Crawford also contributed to this post. 

Copyright 2021 K & L GatesNational Law Review, Volume VII, Number 354
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About this Author

Cameron Abbott, Technology, Attorney, Australia, corporate, KL Gates Law Firm
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Mr. Abbott is a corporate lawyer who focuses on technology, telecommunications and broadcasting transactions. He assists corporations and vendors in managing their technology requirements and contracts, particularly large outsourcing and technology procurements issues including licensing terms for SAP and Oracle and major system integration transactions.

Mr. Abbott partners with his clients to ensure market leading solutions are implemented in to their businesses. He concentrates on managing and negotiating complex technology solutions, which...

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