Many readers were surprised to learn recently that the popular antivirus suite norton 360 now comes with a program that allows customers to earn money by mining virtual currency. But Norton 360 is not alone in this dubious endeavor: avira antivirus, which has built a base of 500 million users worldwide largely thanks to the product being free, was recently bought by the same company that owns norton 360 and is introducing its customers to a service called avira crypto.
Founded in 2006, avira operations gmbh & co. kg is a German multinational software company best known for its avira free security (also known as avira free antivirus). In January 2021, Avira was acquired by Tempe, Ariz.-based nortonlifelock inc, the same company that now owns norton 360.
in 2017, identity theft protection company lifelock was acquired by symantec corp., which changed its name to nortonlifelock in 2019. lifelock is now included in norton 360 service; avira offers users a similar service called a breach monitor.
Like Norton 360, Avira comes with a cryptominer already installed, but customers must choose to use the service that powers it. Avira’s FAQ about its crypto mining service is somewhat sparse. for example, it doesn’t specify how much nortonlifelock gets from the deal (nortonlifelock keeps 15 percent of any cryptocurrency mined by norton crypto).
“avira crypto allows you to use your computer’s idle time to mine ethereum (eth) cryptocurrency,” the FAQ explains. “Since crypto mining requires a high level of processing power, it is not suitable for users with an average computer. even with compatible hardware, mining cryptocurrencies on your own can be less rewarding. your best option is to join a mining pool that shares its computing power to improve your chances of mining cryptocurrencies. the rewards are then distributed evenly to all members of the group.”
See also: How to Buy Ethereum in the UK | Koody
nortonlifelock has not yet responded to requests for comment, so it is unclear if avira uses the same crypto mining code as norton crypto. but there are clues to suggest that this is the case. nortonlifelock announced avira crypto at the end of October 2021, but many other antivirus products have flagged the avira installer as malicious or unsafe for including a cryptominer since September 2nd. 9, 2021.
The above screenshot was taken at virustotal.com, a Google-owned service that scans submitted files against dozens of antivirus products. The detection report shown in the image was found by searching virustotal for “anvoptimusenablementcuda”, a function included in the norton cryptomining component “ncrypt.exe”.
Some long-time norton customers took to the nortonlifelock online forum to express their horror at the prospect of their antivirus product installing coin mining software, regardless of whether the mining service was disabled by default.
“norton should detect and stop cryptomining hijack, not install its own,” reads one dec. 28 threads on the norton forum titled “absolutely furious”.
Others have claimed that the crypto offering will end up costing customers more in electricity bills than they can expect to earn by allowing their antivirus to mine eth. What’s more, there are hefty fees involved in moving any eth mined by norton or avira crypto into an account that the user can cash out, and many users apparently don’t understand that they can’t cash out until they at least earn enough eth to cover the fees.
In August 2021, nortonlifelock said it had struck a deal to acquire avast, another long-time free antivirus product that also claims to have around 500 million users. Whether or not avast crypto will be nortonlifelock’s next bright offering remains to be seen.
As mentioned in this week’s norton crypto story, I understand that participation in these crypto mining schemes is voluntary, but much of that ultimately depends on how these crypto programs are launched and whether users really understand what they are doing when they are enabled. to them. but what annoys me most is that they will introduce hundreds of millions of perhaps less savvy internet users to the world of cryptocurrencies, which comes with its own set of unique security and privacy challenges that require users to “level up” your personal security practices in some pretty significant ways.
update, January. 28, 9:41 AM m.: I intended to add this earlier, but not long after this story was published, nortonlifelock told me that the company only had 80 million customers and my headline of 500 million was incorrect.
“headline says 500 million avira av users got acquainted with crypto mining,” nortonlifelock wrote to krebsonsecurity. “However, our company has approximately 80 million users worldwide. furthermore, nortonlifelock and avast remain separate companies.”
I thought this was strange, given that avira’s home page very clearly indicated that the company had 500 million users:
NortonLifeLock thanked me for the information, and said it was removing all instances of that number from its Web properties. The company has yet to explain whether that 500 million number was ever anywhere close to reality, and if so what happened to all those users.