Hackers are targeting innocent people’s computers and stealing processing power without their knowledge in order to mine cryptocurrency.
The process is known as cryptojacking and illegally harnesses the power of thousands of computers.
Criminals use the background power of computers and convert it into Monero, a virtual currency similar to Bitcoin which is easier to cash out.
Scientists have now discovered the scam has generated an astonishing £44 million ($57 million) worldwide since 2007.
Guillermo Suarez-Tangil at King’s College London and Sergio Pastrana at Madrid’s Carlos III University studied how the successful the process was.
Their research, published on the pre-publish site ArXiv, looked at how more than 4.4 million pieces of malware were used in cryptojacking.
One particularly efficient ground of cryptocriminals earned $18 million since June 2016.
More than half (58 per cent) of the illegally-obtained cryptocurrency came from 10 campaigns.
Cryptojacking does not steal or take anything from the computers it uses as the cryptocurrency was never technically owned by them.