Antivirus firm Norton to offer cryptocurrency mining
Millions of people will soon be able to mine cryptocurrencies without installing any extra programs after the antivirus company Norton announced plans to add the feature to its LifeLock security software.
The company says the new feature, Norton Crypto, is intended to allow users to put their computers to work mining cryptocurrency – and eventually earning real money – without needing to risk using unvetted software.
“We are proud to be the first consumer cyber safety company to offer coinminers the ability to safely and easily turn the idle time on their PCs into an opportunity to earn digital currency,” said Gagan Singh, the chief product officer at Norton. “With Norton Crypto, our customers can mine for cryptocurrency with just a few clicks, avoiding many barriers to entry in the cryptocurrency ecosystem.”
Norton Crypto is expected to become available to all Norton 360 customers in the coming weeks. The company argues that it improves on the existing experience. “For years, many coinminers have had to take risks in their quest for cryptocurrency, disabling their security in order to run coinmining and allowing unvetted code on their machines that could be skimming from their earnings or even planting ransomware,” Norton said. “Earnings are commonly stored directly on miners’ hard drives, where their digital wallet could be lost should it fail.”
Norton’s pitch is that as it is a trusted security company, its users can be confident their computer and cryptocurrency are in safe hands.
Norton did not detail how it intends to monetise the feature, but screenshots of the software running suggest it will operate as a “pool”, with all users sharing in the rewards. As well as making the payouts more predictable, a pool approach would allow the company to charge a fee for membership. Competitors charge about 1% of earnings.
The news was greeted with suspicion from many in the cryptocurrency sector. Mining cryptocurrency uses a lot of energy, and for most normal computers it is difficult if not impossible to make more money from running mining software than would be spent on electricity bills. While users could still make a profit if they use electricity they don’t pay for, such as from offices or student accommodation, that would carry potential legal risks.
Similarly, in many countries income made from running cryptominers is taxable. A potential profit of pennies a day might not be worth the resulting paperwork.