back to article Antivirus that mines Ethereum sounds a bit wrong, right? Norton has started selling it

NortonLifeLock, the company that offers the consumer products Broadcom didn’t want when it bought Symantec, has started to offer Ethereum mining as a feature of its Norton 360 security suite. The antivirus maker's pitch for the product rests on the argument that casual cryptocurrency miners can't or don’t take security …

  1. gnasher729 Silver badge

    There was a quite recent report about a gang stealing £16,000 of electricity to mine £8,000 worth of bitcoin. (They had about 100 computers that were confiscated, so they must have ended with a major loss unless the computers were stolen as well). In the countries where Norton is mostly selling, you can't make money by mining anything.

    1. S4qFBxkFFg

      I remember back when I was renting, "bills included" was not uncommonly seen in listings, and for about two years, I lived in a place like that (there was no gas or electricity meter in my home, the pipes and wires were physically connected to my landlord's house next door). I probably paid more rent than my neighbours in equivalent homes, but it worked well enough for me.

      The point is, for various legitimate or not reasons, there are plenty of people who are not responsible for the electricity supply they use, and therefore have a theoretical incentive to mine until their cards produce the magic smoke, even if it does cost £2 of electricity to mine £1 of ₿ (or, more likely, ETH).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'd often considered whether it would be worthwhile attaching a waterwheel and dynamo to a tap and leaving it running when I lived at an unmetered property...

        1. oiseau Silver badge
          Stop

          A local chap I know is the owner of a small company that manufactures small electric motors.

          Small outfit, maybe 10.000 m2 and 80+ employees.

          To run the factory, he pays the energy company a flat fee for up to X kWh, X being an arbitrary number imposed by the energy provider, the real amount used fluctuating according to how sales are going and rarely going over X, an extra for which he would have to pay a higher kWh price.

          He has set up energy monitoring software to see how his hourly energy use is going and as a result has a relatively precise idea of his monthly use throughout the year.

          So he set up a mining operation that uses the day's left over energy at night.

          It's not free energy but he'll have paid for it if it goes unused for something.

          But not very green ...

          O.

          1. anothercynic Silver badge

            Smart man. I'd do the same if I was him. This is why I've never understood the whole 'unmetered rateable value standing charge' thing that applied to various areas for water (and some for electricity).

      2. HereIAmJH

        WFH

        The point is, for various legitimate or not reasons, there are plenty of people who are not responsible for the electricity supply they use, and therefore have a theoretical incentive to mine until their cards produce the magic smoke, even if it does cost £2 of electricity to mine £1 of ₿ (or, more likely, ETH).

        My first thought was what happens when smart guy in the IT department at my employer decides to turn this feature on for all the Work From Home laptops? The company could do lots of mining at the employee's expense. And many would never know why their power bill suddenly went up. Thanks to group policies, the only option I'd have is turn off the laptop every evening. Basically meaning more unpaid overtime because I'd have to wait for long-running tasks to complete before I could log off. Or find a new job.

        1. Solviva

          Re: WFH

          They might (actually most probably not...) notice the laptop running rather warm, fans blowing more, battery draining faster (unless they set to only run when powered).

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > there are plenty of people who are not responsible for the electricity supply they use, and therefore have a theoretical incentive to mine...

        We call these "offspring"

        1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

          > We call these "offspring"

          Or just minors.

  2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    Idle? With antivirus?

    Given the main effect of antivirus is to slow your computer to a crawl, why not monetise it?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting business model ...

    So basically you pay your local energy supplier which translates that investment into giving Megacorp a few pennies per day ?

    Pay for the software with CPU cycles ?

    Like it or not, the while blockchain/crypto currency genie will not go back in the box.

    1. oiseau Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Interesting business model ...

      ... blockchain/crypto currency genie will not go back in the box.

      It will ...

      Sooner or later, just wait for it.

      O.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Interesting business model ...

        It won't go "back in the box" as such. It will disappear though. And "me too" products like this are exactly the indicators a boom is reaching it's peak.

  4. katrinab Silver badge
    Flame

    I didn't need any more reasons to avoid Norton

    But I have one anyway.

    In most parts of the world, the money you could make from mining imaginary money is far less than the retail cost of the electricity required to do it.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: I didn't need any more reasons to avoid Norton

      Yes - b-but "cool"!...

      It's a chance to join the cool kids requiring no insider knowledge and relying on a well-known consumer brand instead of some shady software downloaded from who knows where.

      So who cares if your old nag of a computer will take a year to mine $1, you're now one of them, far out there on the cutting edge of hackerdom (hoodie not included). Besides, people using this product wouldn't know how to use cryptocurrency anyway, so it's not important if they actually manage to mine a dollar or two.

    2. Aus Tech

      Re: I didn't need any more reasons to avoid Norton

      You wouldn't by any chance be implying that Cryptocurrency miners are also Electricity Thieves? How else could they make a profit if they have to pay a higher price for electricity than they earn from mining?

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: I didn't need any more reasons to avoid Norton

        By setting up shop in places with cheap electricity, or by buying old power stations and using their entire output for mining.

        They are not paying domestic retail prices for their electricity.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: I didn't need any more reasons to avoid Norton

      On the other hand, there's plenty of money to be made hacking buggy Ethereum "smart contracts" (which, of course, are neither smart nor contracts). There's an obscene amount of money tied up in the Ether network, and studies have found that bugs in the contracts are very common.

      There have been a few high-profile hacks of Ether, most notably the DAO hack which netted someone $55M.

  5. ItsMeDammit

    I thought this was a variant on the "Freemium" model.

    As soon as I saw the headline I thought Norton were offering this as a way of paying for the product, as in you mine crypto-currency for Norton in exchange for a perpetual licence. Who knows - people might have gone for that.

    1. Mishak

      People might have gone for that

      Only if they don't understand that they will be paying the energy bill for the "free" software.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: I thought this was a variant on the "Freemium" model.

      > you mine crypto-currency for Norton in exchange for a perpetual licence

      Nah, I guess on most domestic computers it would take 5 years to mine one year's worth of license...

      Don't forget the hundreds of TSRs "normal" peoples' computer have constantly running and eating CPU cycles: The CD/DVD burning software fully loaded in memory in case you would need to burn a CD right now, the scanner software indexing over and over again all pictures on your HD and sending them to the mothership, various communication/social apps running in the background, the antivirus itself, and so on.

      The computers were bought just for YouTube and email, so weren't very powerful to start with, but with the help of solipsistic software companies they become absolutely incapable of doing anything vaguely ambitious.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: I thought this was a variant on the "Freemium" model.

        >Nah, I guess on most domestic computers it would take 5 years to mine one year's worth of license...

        I wonder what the return on investment model looks like for a teenager's gaming rig given it is highly likely the PC was free(*) as is electric...

        For others, the question has to be whether it could out-perform OnlyFans...

        (*) Bank of mum and dad is effectively free to the teenager.

        1. sofaspud

          Re: I thought this was a variant on the "Freemium" model.

          It's funny you mention that, because when my son (finally!) moved out a couple years back, I noticed an immediate drop in our electric bill. I don't know that he was mining (probably) but his frankenstein of a rig caused a double-digit difference in the bill each month.

          I know it wasn't heating/cooling and the like because we immediately filled the room with a renter, who also has a computer that's on 24/7, but even so the difference is staggering.

          Anyway, point is, my son's rig cost about US$800 brand-new; figure another $800 for the additional parts he chivvied out of us to 'upgrade' it with. Taking that rig offline means the electricity savings would have recovered the cost* in about.... 2 years, give or take.

          (* I feel dirty saying it this way because it's not actually any sort of return, but you get the idea)

          I don't know what a single $1600 PC (circa 2017-ish hardware) generates in terms of mined coin, but I somehow doubt it would pay for itself and given the electric usage I noticed above I am certain it wouldn't cover it initial cost plus running costs... ever.

          1. tony72

            Re: I thought this was a variant on the "Freemium" model.

            I don't know what a single $1600 PC (circa 2017-ish hardware) generates in terms of mined coin, but I somehow doubt it would pay for itself and given the electric usage I noticed above I am certain it wouldn't cover it initial cost plus running costs... ever.

            All depends on the graphics card. If it had say a GTX 1080 from back then, it could earn enough to pay for itself in two or three years, even with western energy prices. However with an unsuitable graphics card, and/or worse still doing CPU mining, you could easily be costing way more in energy than you could earn.

            BTW it might not have been mining using all that energy. I used to run SETI@home continuously years ago, for example. I don't remember whether I ever considered the energy usage of that or not, but it must have been considerable.

            1. Solviva

              Re: I thought this was a variant on the "Freemium" model.

              I know someone who in the 90s had distributed,net cracking RC5 on all the PCs in their parents house... and their school cluster. The school was rather a manual operation of copying the work to/from floppies on each machine due to lack of internet.

              Was very convenient when they splashed out on a bunch of Celeren 300 machines which said person upgraded to Celeron 450s to help MS Word load 2s quicker and process RC5 hashes 33% faster.

              Of course electricity was 'free' then :)

          2. Wellyboot Silver badge

            Re: I thought this was a variant on the "Freemium" model.

            When junior left for Uni the drop in monthly food bills was 3 digit* :)

            * offset by direct subsidy but still a win!

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I thought this was a variant on the "Freemium" model.

            No, it would cost an extra $1600 a year in electricity running full tilt :)

            If it costs 2$ to make 1$ you can double your revenue by working twice as hard right?

          4. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: I thought this was a variant on the "Freemium" model.

            Done a little thinking and a little reading.

            This article is relevant to the discussion: How to mine Ethereum, guide for beginners specifically the section "How to find the best mining hardware?" which compares various graphics cards on their payback at different energy costs.

            This along with the statement: "The most straightforward way to mine Ether is by joining one of many mining pools like SparkPool, Nanopool, F2Pool and many others. These allow miners to have a constant stream of income instead of a random chance of finding a whole block once in a while." got me thinking.

            In the various press releases about Norton Crypto (I've not seen the Ts&Cs), no mention is actually made to Ether Blocks (ie. 'coin'), the documents only refer to 'earnings'. I suggest therefore that this is looking like NortonLifeLock are setting up a mining pool - containing up to 13m users of Norton 360 who are using the requisite hardware.

            1. imanidiot Silver badge

              Re: I thought this was a variant on the "Freemium" model.

              And I wouldn't be surprised if NortonLifeLock (what a name anyway) is going to be taking a tidy cut off of the top of that mining pool

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I thought this was a variant on the "Freemium" model.

      That was my thought as well. And my feelings on that technique are mixed. On the one hand, it seems like a reasonable way of offering a "free" product. On the other hand, it costs the user more than if they had simply paid the equivalent value of the cryptocurrency in the first place, and it's using electricity that wouldn't otherwise need to be produced (so not "green").

      I've heard talk of super-low-energy devices that power themselves from stray EM such as wifi signals. I wonder how many would be needed to mine cryptocurrency...

  6. nagi
    Mushroom

    Pitch meeting

    I wonder how it went... "Norton 360 doesn't seem to waste enough resources, but we have a solution for that!"

  7. Binraider Bronze badge

    Tools with the Norton name in the DOS era had their uses. I preferred Xtree Gold. Haven't touched them ever since.

    Wouldn't know where to start these days with AV / Malware detection on Windows. Too many compromises on performance and security regardless of which supplier you pick. (Russian origins? Nope. Or US-ian bloatware? Nope).

    Fortunately I don't use Win anymore in any environment I manage myself.

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Have not trusted anything using 'Norton' since they got rid of Norton Disk Doctor from Mac System 8, the one that had an animation of a concerned doctor examining your disk drive.

  8. DrXym Silver badge

    What's the difference between Norton Antivirus and Malware?

    Not much. They both shake you down for cash, slow your machine down and mine crypto currency.

    1. LDS Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: What's the difference between Norton Antivirus and Malware?

      Actually writing a good ransomware you can "mine" far more efficiently....

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: What's the difference between Norton Antivirus and Malware?

        >Actually writing a good ransomware you can "mine" far more efficiently....

        I would have thought Norton here are effectively in the same business as the Klondyke shovel makers - no need for ransomware, people willing paid the price just to be part of the bubble....

      2. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: What's the difference between Norton Antivirus and Malware?

        No! Malware costs the company money but if I install Norton Antivirus on all the PC's in the office and use a personal account to register them then I can make some money ...

  9. TeeCee Gold badge
    Meh

    I suppose that the reason they're doing this is that they're hoping that the mining function will disguise the fact that their bloatware has its clog on your machine's neck.

  10. Martin Summers Silver badge

    Mining software I've installed to try was detected by my AV as potentially unwanted malware. Would be quite funny if the Norton software detected and cleaned itself up.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Funny you should mention that. It's been an on/off problem for years where Windows users install more than one active antivirus app and they not only conflict but have been known to report the "alien" AV as a virus either due to what it does to hook into the OS or because the virus signatures database trigger it.

      1. EnviableOne Silver badge

        now windows does it for you, Defender and other AV will get in a bun fight over each other doing on access scanning, even if you told it to turn Defender off, as it randomly decides your chosen AV is missing during an upgrade and re-activates itself

  11. khjohansen

    BOFH opportunity?

    Company pays for 'leccy + computers - you get the (bit)$$

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: BOFH opportunity?

      That's already quite common AFAIK: I remember having read dozens of articles about employees installing mining software on company workstations and servers (and getting eventually caught).

      1. yetanotheraoc

        Re: BOFH opportunity?

        You wouldn't be reading about the ones who didn't get caught.

  12. J27 Silver badge

    I suspect this will result in unintended consequences, primarily from people who don't understand Ethereum mining profitability running up their electrical bills unexpectedly.

    It is very hard to actually make money mining cryptocurrency, unless you're stealing power and if you don't have optimal equipment it's basically impossible.

    1. Binraider Bronze badge

      It's certainly easier in areas with cheap electricity - and stolen qualifies as cheap.

      Running up a landlord's bills dumb enough to include electricity in the price is one way. Get booted out? Move to another unsuspecting landlord afterwards.

      Rather more sensibly, a big off grid solar/wind/battery setup is absolutely viable if you have the chunk of change to start it up. If you've got that kinda cash; I imagine you are probably better setting up stuff offshore, in somewhere with cheap energy.

      All things considered, however, if you're looking to start now you've probably already missed the speculation party, as the useful features of crypto shift to other formats the value moves onto efficient service provision rather than Tulip mania.

  13. Ramis101
    Angel

    Don't Buy Norton and your quids in already

    Simply don't buy the bloatware-AV-with-added-crypto-miner and you will be way up on any ETH it might mine for you

  14. msobkow Bronze badge

    Norton was always a pig of an AV system, and now they want to add a CPU/GPU hog process to the mix?

    No thanks.

    I'll stick with Cylance; good Canadian made AI technology that has proven more effective at protecting my machine than any other antivirus has ever been. Every single app that tries to do something funky has been flagged and blocked until I allowed it to run by this product. And it is light weight - I can barely tell it is running; it uses patry fractions of my CPU to do its job.

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Windows

      Windows Defender seems to work OK, if you really must run Windows on your computer.

      1. EnviableOne Silver badge

        if you can handle all the false positives and data slurping ...

    2. The_Idiot

      @msobkow

      Not sniping - genuinely curious. I know it's Wikipedia, but:

      "Cylance Inc. is an American software firm that develops antivirus programs and other kinds of computer software that prevents, rather than reactively detect, viruses and malware. The company is based in Irvine, California."

      On what do you base the 'good Canadian made technology'? I can see Blackberry bought them, but Cylance the technology developer seems solidly USA-ian, unless I'm misreading something.

  15. Marty McFly Bronze badge
    Thumb Down

    Cloudy wallets...

    Not your keys, not your coins. 'nuf said.

  16. DevOpsTimothyC Bronze badge
    Flame

    Now that they can what's to stop them

    Norton was always bloated and resource hungry. Now that they have stated that this will be part of their offering who's going to trust that the resource drain is not them doing a little crypto mining on the sly anyway ?

  17. HildyJ Silver badge
    Facepalm

    FOMO + Easy + Name Brand = Sales

    This is designed for average Joe (or Jane) who thinks that crypto mining sounds neat but are baffled by the mechanics. They are looking for an easy all-in-one solution from a brand they've heard of. Crypto wallets confuse them so they're fine with letting someone else handle it. Electricity consumption doesn't bother them any more than it does when they turn on their air conditioner.

    I assume this will be successful (to Norton, not the customer).

    The only surprising thing is that PayPal didn't think of it first.

  18. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Coat

    The rot set in

    back in 2017 when someone at The Register came up with a cunning plan...

    https://www.theregister.com/2017/04/01/invisible_bitcoin_paywall/

  19. Claptrap314 Silver badge
    Trollface

    What we need

    Is a video: "How to uninstall Norton Antivirus".

    1. Aus Tech

      Re: What we need

      You don't need a video. There is a simple 4 step process to get rid of Norton Antivirus:

      1. Throw out your Norton Antivirus installation CD or DVD.

      2. Do a completely fresh Install of Windows.

      3. Do a new install of some other antivirus software, such as Malwarebytes.

      4. Reinstall all of your other software, remembering to not install cryptomining software.

  20. SAdams

    Hard disk failure

    I agree with everything in the article apart from the comment on hard drives ‘hardly’ failing anymore.

    They still fail, whatever type they are. If only I had a bitcoin for every person who thought that hard drives don’t fail anymore, and then lost all their data…

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      Re: Hard disk failure

      My hard drive failed hard when my grip failed over a hard floor.

  21. Stabbybob

    Progress

    Apparently using 80% of the CPU time wasn't enough for this outfit. Why not also peg the GPU?!

    1. arachnoid2 Bronze badge

      Re: Progress

      Well they could then state it's not their antivirus causing the slowdown it's the mining software running in the background causing it.

  22. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    then store the results in the Norton cloud

    And have somebody blag it... I won't be surprised if some enterprising ne'er-do-well will manage just that...

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