Your next laptop may come with a cryptominer, courtesy of Norton
Ethereum mining is coming to perhaps an unexpected place: Norton 360, the antivirus software that many readers will know from setting up new computers for their parents (via BleepingComputer). In its press release, Norton claims its brand is a perfect fit: people looking to mine crypto won’t have to dig through the dark, scary parts of the web, where they could possibly find “unvetted code.”
The company also says that it’ll store users’ crypto wallets in the cloud, with its own Norton Wallet. As far as actually using their gains, a Norton spokesperson tells The Verge there will be a button that allows users to “pull money into Coinbase.”
Until now, Norton claims, people who wanted to mine had to disable their security software to do it, which made things harder for them. While that somewhat seems like a problem that could at least in part be caused by Norton 360 itself, Norton does have a point that using software that comes pre-installed on your computer is easier than having to figure out mining for yourself.
But is that really what we want? Putting aside the environmental concerns of thousands of new miners, and the potential unexpected tax implications that BleepingComputer brings up (not that those are things that should be ignored), the idea of having mining software included in a program that comes with people’s computers seems like a slippery slope.
It’s easy to imagine a company, not necessarily Norton, offering cheaper or even free computers, if you just turn your unused computing cycles into a recurring source of profit for the bloatware makers subsidizing your purchase. Think Kindle with Special Offers, except instead of ads you’re taxing your computer’s GPU and sucking back electricity when you’re not using it (or, in the case of really shady manufacturers, when you are). Norton may be opening a door here that’s hard to close.
While Norton specifically calls out Ethereum in its blog post, it told CNN it was considering letting people mine other “reputable crypto currencies” later on. The company’s letting in early adopters on Thursday, and hopes to roll it out to everyone “in the coming weeks.”