Norton installs an Ethereum crypto miner with its 360 security suite

Convenient and trustworthy or a scumbag predatory move?
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— “January 10, 2022”

Norton is facing criticism for including a cryptocurrency mining program with its 360 security suite. Though Norton has been upfront about its plan to include the software, the move has generated a lot of backlash. Norton claims the miner is secure and reliable but the move raises concerns about the mechanics and ethics behind it.

Norton Crypto is turned off by default, but many users aren’t happy having it installed at all for various reasons including possible security concerns, suspicions, an aversion to crypto or environmental concerns among others. There’s also worries that the miner cannot be easily uninstalled. Could a malware app hijack the software and point it to a hacker’s wallet? If it happens to Norton – a security suite provider- then anything is possible.

Norton Crypto

(Image credit: NortonLifeLock (via Business Wire))

The program mines Ethereum to a pool made up of other Norton users. The rose-colored glasses view is that it makes it easy for non crypto savvy users to take their first steps into the crypto ecosystem via easy to use software that’s provided by a trusted software developer. Given the proliferation of shady crypto malware, that’s an understandable and some would say, positive development.

Norton’s miner will only run if it meets basic system requirements, so if you’re running an older or under spec machine of which there are countless millions, then it won’t run at all. So, while the miner is optional, transparent and run by a (mostly) reputable software company, that’s about where the positives end.

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Norton’s miner charges a 15% pool fee, which is frankly, ridiculous. Most Ethereum pools charge 1 or 2%, with a further small fee for the developer of the mining software. That’s a far cry from Norton’s 15%. When you add the cost of Ethereum’s transaction fees, which are very high in recent times due to network load, it’s not easy to see how a user can make much of a profit. Then there’s the cost of electricity on top of that. In some cases, a user could end up in the red.

Perhaps the biggest issue is that Norton Crypto will expose users who don’t understand how crypto works. Norton deserves to be criticized for dangling the carrot of ‘free money’ in front of someone that doesn’t understand what they’re in for or the mechanisms behind crypto mining. It raises all kinds of ethical, social and economic concerns. Many would consider Norton’s actions to be predatory.

Whatever happens, Norton will be laughing all the way to the bank thanks to that rip-off 15% fee and if it starts raking in millions of dollars, it’s only a matter of time before other legitimate software providers follow suit. Ethereum’s shift to Proof of Stake can’t come quickly enough. At least then a graphics card might actually become a graphics card again, and not a mining card.

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