Heres the truth about the crypto miner that comes with Norton Antivirus – The Verge

norton is facing criticism for bundling a crypto miner with its norton 360 security software. activists such as cory doctorow have claimed that the company “sneaks crypto mining software on your computer” and takes a commission on the profits, and Media outlets like pcmag, krebs on security and digital trends have also written about users expressing frustration trying to uninstall it. while there is more than a grain of truth to these claims, we did our own research and found that they are exaggerated.

Last summer, norton publicly announced that it would add a cryptominer to its norton 360 security suite, presenting it as a safer alternative to trying to install complex and “unexamined” mining programs from the internet. It was initially only available to a limited number of users, but now it appears to be available to anyone who installs the program, but in the six months or so since the announcement, there hasn’t been much discussion of the software as of this week.

Reading: Antivirus now mine ethereum cryptocurrency

Now, it’s suddenly the center of a backlash, with some twitter users accusing norton of installing a cryptominer on users’ computers without warning. In a very technical sense, that’s true: My colleague Sean Hollister installed a copy of Norton 360 for himself and discovered that the mining application ncrypt.exe was included in the program’s directory.

However, that does not mean that norton will automatically start mining on your computer, as some seem to believe. Norton’s FAQ says that it will not mine without permission and that “in addition to having a device that meets the system requirements, you must also activate Norton Crypto on your device.” Sean says that from what he could see, this seemed to be true; the feature did not surreptitiously activate after you installed norton. it didn’t open until he asked it to.

the tl;dr is that yes, norton installs a cryptominer with their software, without making it clear in the initial setup process. but it won’t do anything unless you specifically opt-in, so it’s not a situation where you’ll install the security suite and instantly start seeing your computer lag while it processes crypto in the background.

See also: 3 Methods to Buy Ethereum with PayPal in 2022

A nortonlifelock spokesperson also told The Verge in an email that you can completely remove ncrypt.exe by temporarily disabling norton’s tamper protection feature and then deleting the executable. We confirmed this ourselves, and it could be good news for anyone worried about norton remotely activating the feature.

We asked norton if they were committed to the feature always being enabled, and spokesperson spring harris told us that “[the] feature requires special device hardware and user consent to work. we are transparent about performance of our software on users’ devices and we have no intention of changing this.”

None of this is to defend norton’s inclusion of a cryptominer in its security package; it is simply to explain what happens and what doesn’t.

as mentioned above, we installed norton ourselves to get first hand experience with the miner. While the service may be optional, Norton doesn’t make it hard to find: When Sean installed the software, his control panel had a big green banner at the top that read “turn your computer downtime into cash.” . Clicking the “show me how” button displays a slideshow about the feature, a large “accept and start” button, and smaller text informing you that the feature you are activating is norton crypto.

Norton Crypto isn’t a hard feature to find.
Screenshot: Sean Hollister / The Verge
Norton promises that it’ll only mine when you’re not otherwise using your computer (and you can manually pause it if need be).
Screenshot: Sean Hollister / The Verge

After you turn on Norton Crypto, it’ll set up a wallet for you, and immediately start using your computer’s GPU to mine Ethereum (its system requirements say you need an Nvidia or AMD card with at least 6GB of memory). Any earnings will be periodically deposited in the wallet set up for you, and once you reach a minimum threshold you’ll be able to withdraw your earnings to Coinbase.

See also: Even with the power of 25 RTX 3080 GPUs, this Ethereum mining ASIC will soon be useless | PC Gamer

norton has incentives for people to use the feature. As bleepingcomputer pointed out when testing the software last year, Norton keeps a whopping 15 percent of the profits you make from mining. Without going too deep into how mining works, norton crypto’s terms of service (pdf) say that you are running a mining pool, which combines everyone’s computing power to increase the chances of mining a block; when that happens, everyone who contributed the power gets a share of the reward. it’s that reward that norton takes its share of.

Pool operators often charge a commission or fee to bring everyone together. however, fees are typically closer to 1 or 2 percent, which is obviously significantly lower. And, of course, there’s the elephant in the room: Anyone who uses Norton’s software to mine has already paid the company a subscription fee for their security software (and after we bought a copy, we also had to provide our payment information so that it could be automatically renewed each year).

Is the mining reward good enough that you can ignore the high fees or consider them a cost of convenience for not having to figure out how to join a pool on your own (which is usually a reasonably technical process)? we tested it for ourselves, measuring electricity consumption using a one-watt kill power meter. the results? With the current difficulty of mining a block and ethereum prices, we achieve a complete balance between what we earn and what we pay for energy. in real numbers, a night of mining on an rtx 3060 ti generated $0.66 cents worth of ethereum and cost $0.66 worth of off-peak electricity. norton kept all the profits.

Norton tells you how much you’ve earned and gives you projected earnings.
Screenshot: Sean Hollister / The Verge

Given The Verge’s policy against holding cryptocurrency, we’ll be immediately divesting the fraction of an ETH we earned in our test.

Even if it had more powerful mining hardware and cheaper electricity, Norton’s model could end up being a tough deal. You deposit your Ethereum share into your Norton crypto wallet, but if you want to use it or exchange it for fiat currency, you’ll have to cash it out; currently the only option for that is transferring it to a coinbase account. however, doing so will incur a transaction fee (also known as a gas fee) which is charged by the ethereum network itself. That could mean you’d have to mine a large amount of cryptocurrency before it makes financial sense to withdraw it from your Norton wallet.

However, the deal looks much better from the end of norton, as is often the case with cryptocurrencies, scale is key here. While using the feature may not be particularly profitable for a single person, if many people try it out, Norton’s share could add up to a significant sum. Whether it will be enough to offset the PR hit the company got from this feature is hard to say, but even ignoring twitter, users on Norton’s own crypto forum don’t seem particularly happy with how it’s gone.

See also: How to Buy Ethereum with PayPal in 2021

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