Saturday, January 29, 2022

Here’s how the new Norton 360 Protection software works for cryptocurrency

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Norton has come under fire for incorporating a cryptocurrency miner in its Norton 360 protection software. Activists such as Cory Doctorow have stated that the corporation “sneaky installs crypto mining software on your computer” and takes a cut of the revenues, and publications such as PC Mag, Krebs on Security, and Digital Trends have reported on consumers expressing annoyance with the software. While there is some truth to these statements, we investigated further and discovered that they have been exaggerated.

Norton revealed this summer that it was adding a crypto miner to its Norton 360 security suite, touting it as a safer alternative to downloading sophisticated, “unvetted” mining applications from the internet. It was initially exclusively available to a small number of people, but it now appears to be available to everyone who installs the program — though there hasn’t been much talk about the software in the six months or so since the introduction.

Norton is now at the heart of a controversy, with some Twitter users accusing the company of secretly installing a crypto miner on users’ PCs. In a technical sense, that’s correct; my colleague Sean Hollister installed Norton 360 for himself and discovered the mining application NCrypt.exe in the program’s directory.

The short version is that Norton does install a crypto-miner with its software, despite not disclosing this during the original setup procedure. However, it won’t do anything until you are explicitly opt-in, so don’t expect to install the security suite and immediately see your computer sluggish while it calculates crypto in the background.

When we asked Norton if it would commit to making the feature always opt-in, a spokesman, Spring Harris, said, “[the] feature requires unique device hardware and user agreement to function.” We are open and honest about how our software works on user devices, and we have no plans to change.”

This isn’t meant to justify Norton’s decision to include a crypto-miner in its security suite; rather, it’s meant to explain what is and isn’t happening.

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Norton Crypto will create a wallet for you and begin mining Ethereum with your computer’s GPU as soon as you switch it on (its system requirements say you need an Nvidia or AMD card with at least 6GB of memory). Any earnings will be sent into the wallet you set up for yourself regularly, and if you hit a certain threshold, you’ll be able to withdraw them to Coinbase.

Norton has a vested interest in getting users to use the feature. When BleepingComputer tested the software last year, it discovered that Norton gets a stunning 15% of any mining profits. Without going into too much detail about how mining works, according to Norton Crypto’s terms of service (PDF), the company runs a mining pool that pools everyone’s computing power to increase the chances of mining a block — when that happens, everyone who contributed power gets a share of the reward. Norton is getting a piece of the pie from that prize.

For bringing everyone together, pool operators frequently take a percentage of charge. The fees, on the other hand, are frequently closer to 1 or 2 percent, which is far lower. And, of course, there’s the elephant in the room: everyone who mines using Norton’s software has already paid a monthly price for the company’s protection program (and after we purchased a copy, we also had to provide our payment information so that it could automatically renew itself every year).

Is the payoff from mining sufficient to justify the high costs, or should you consider them a cost of convenience for not having to figure out how to join a pool on your own (which is usually a quite technical process)? We put it to the test by utilizing a Kill-A-Watt power meter to track our electricity usage. What were the outcomes? We broke even for what we earned versus what we paid for power due to the current difficulty of mining a block and Ethereum prices. In real-world terms, a single night of mining on an RTX 3060 Ti yielded 0.66 cents in Ethereum and cost $0.66 in off-peak electricity. Norton pocketed the entire profit.

Norton’s strategy could be a tough sell even if you had better mining hardware and lower electricity. It deposits your Ethereum into your Norton Crypto wallet, but you’ll have to cash it out if you want to use it or swap it for fiat currency – right now, the only way to do so is to transfer it to a Coinbase account. However, the Ethereum network will charge you a transaction cost (also known as a gas fee) if you do so. That may imply you’d have to create a lot of cryptocurrency before withdrawing it from your Norton wallet makes financial sense.

also read:

Dropbox finally starts the testing of its app on Apple’s new custom silicon powered Macs


Avatar of Nivedita Bangari
Nivedita Bangari
I am a software engineer by profession and technology is my love, learning and playing with new technologies is my passion.


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