If you’re running Norton 360, it could be. But you probably already know about it if it is.
Norton 360 antivirus software has caught a backlash recently due to its decision to include a crypto miner, Norton Crypto, in its software bundle. An unethical choice by a major supplier of antivirus software or an easy way for the layman to access crypto mining? Like many differences of philosophy, you’ll hear opinions on both sides if you’re listening for them.
(Quick disclaimer: This article is written for informational purposes only. Employees and agents of Certified CIO are not financial advising experts. Proceed with caution into any investments related to cryptocurrency.)
What is crypto mining?
In a basic sense, crypto mining is the process of “minting” new cryptocurrency. There are various methods per the many different types of cryptocurrency, but the basics involves technology solving complex equations. If a miner is first to make the correct calculations, they are awarded with digital currency. (Of course this is much more complex than this. Check out this link for more detail on Ethereum mining.)
What the Norton Crypto software does
The software in question here recognizes when portions of an individual system are idle and puts them to work mining crypto. This primarily involves graphics cards (GPU) and processor (CPU) resources. In this case, Norton is creating what’s called a pool—literally pooled resources—to increase chances of success. Earnings are then split equitably among the participants, with Norton taking a commission.
For someone looking to experiment with Ethereum chain mining on a small scale, this could be a useful tool to get his/her feet wet with little or no setup time.
This isn’t new news
Although this is making waves now, this was announced at least as early as early Summer 2021.
What is rumored vs what is happening
Along with having been announced previously, many naysayers are likely overstating their case in many ways. (It is the internet, after all.) There are many rumors floating, including the accusations that Norton is appropriating customer resources for an unauthorized crypto miner, that Norton 360 users are now targets for hacking, or that this is just bad business practice.
The first accusation is almost certainly untrue. The crypto miner portion of the security suite is opt-in only via clicking a banner and verifying through a few additional steps. It would be difficult to imagine a user mistakenly taking several steps and activating the software. The hacking target seems suspect, as well. As I address in the final section, the profits of and individual user here are likely miniscule. Unless a hacker gained access to the entire pool of crypto mining resources, a half dollar a month is only useful if a large number of users are quickly duped or accessed. (In fairness, even if unlikely, almost nothing is “impossible” for a motivated hacker.)
It’s a good deal…if you’re Norton
The poor business choice accusation is, indeed, subjective. There are, though, some portions that certainly seem stacked for the Norton in lieu of the end user. For example, it is common for crypto mining pools to take a few percentage points of the earnings. However, Norton takes 15%, which a five-fold or so increase over the norm. Norton has none of the risk of electricity cost or GPU failure. As Verge points out toward the end of this article, in its experiment they netted $0.66 at the cost of $0.66 of additional electricity usage. While they netted zero, Norton profited between $0.11 and $0.12 against their mostly sunk costs of the software development and upkeep.
Lest we forget Norton is a paid service for the company’s customers, as well.
So where does that leave me?
Disclaimer, again: We are not financial advisors or crypto experts, and encourage you to consult an expert before jumping in to a new financial field.
If you are looking to see what crypto mining is all about and already have Norton, this software addition is probably right for you.
If you are not comfortable with crypto mining or simply don’t want to participate, then you need to do nothing—it’s opt-in only.
If you are uncomfortable with this on your system at all, there are ways to remove the Norton Crypto software. We do not recommend circumventing antivirus controls to remove portions of software, so proceed with caution only if you understand fully what you are doing and are willing to assume the risk of breaking something and possibly diluting the efficacy of the antivirus functions.
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