Something strange is happening with Norton. A name synonymous with cybersecurity, the company seemingly had it all. VPNs, LifeLock, Cloud backup and parental controls. But a crypto miner? For many using its service, this has become an unwelcomed and alarming new reality.
There is no doubt to people familiar with the industry that crypto is coming in strong. Its use cases have been identified far and wide, and many continue to explore the endless possibilities that it provides.
Chief amongst these new explorations is our familiar friend Norton. Back in June 2021, the antivirus software provider loudly announced that it would introduce a new feature that would allow the customers of its Norton 360 security suite to mine cryptocurrency; namely Ethereum.
A seemingly innocent move at first, this new feature has now garnered severe backlash from those who have come across it.
The Specifics of the Service
Before we jump the gun, there are a few things to know about Norton 360’s new crypto mining capabilites. Firstly, the service isn’t set in stone and won’t run continuously if directed. Despite the reported lack of transparency in regards to the miner’s presence when installing the software for the first time, users are able to opt-in or opt-out of its function.
This is to say that your GPU won’t lag as it harvests Ethereum in the background, so long as you deactivate the miner. In this way, it’s not a endless, uncontrollable background feature, but one that users can control.
But what has really riled people up with this new feature is the cut it demands. Where most miners will take between a one per cent and three per cent cut on average, Norton has decided to seize a whopping 15 per cent commision from all crypto mined.
“Norton installs its crypto miner by default on your PC, although it is not enabled until you consent to it,” Matjaž Škorjanc, Founder of NiceHash explains. “The idea is that your computer power is then used to mine Ethereum when it’s idle. Sounds great? Not so fast. Norton takes 15 per cent of the mined crypto for themselves, and the subscription is not free either.”
What’s more, users are deposited their cut in Etherium via CoinBase, and if you want to swap it for another currency, you can bet your bottom dollar, or Etherium in this case, that the process will incur a high transaction fee; charged by the Etherium network itself.
“You are also paid in ETH which has notoriously high transaction fees,” Škorjanc continues. “This means you’ll have to wait a very long time before you can even afford to transfer your mined crypto to an exchange or use it. There are many complaints about this in forums all over the internet already.”
And if anything’s ever been clearer, Norton’s customer base are outranged by this unusual move. Although cryptocurrnecy is experiencing a golden age, many see this move as one of exploitation, where a company has boarded the band wagon with the specific intention of collecting profit.
“I think they see a simple opportunity to make additional revenue,” Josh Sandhu, co-founder of Europe’s first NFT advisory service Quantus Gallery told The Fintech Times. “Cryptocurrency isn’t going anywhere, so clearly they feel confident enough to offer their own pooled miner software.
“As Cryptocurrency becomes more and more mainstream, we’re going to continue to see ways in which older and more established corporations enter the scene. In this case, it’s bundling mining software and adding an additional way of creating revenue.”
Bad Taste, Bad Energy
It’s clear that the launch of this product has been mired by a cold welcome. Aside from the alarming high commission that Norton seizes from it, there are other aspect that its developers have failed to consider, like the level of energy consumption involved in the process that will ultimately fall on the user.
Having covered the relationship between crypto and the resources it demands, it’s clear that this aspect cannot be understated or sidelined. Although the Ethereum network has lowered its overall energy consumption with the launch of ETH 2.0, to produce and transact the currency still requires more energy than 100,000 Visa transactions.
Sandhu reiterates this concern: “There’s other implications to these actions, namely, the use of energy and impact on the climate when mining Ethereum. It’s obviously a profit driven decision, and to be quite frank, the average user who uses this probably won’t see any benefit. Yes, they might make some Ethereum, but their energy bill will probably eat into a significant amount of that. In addition to that, the GPU will be working a little harder so its shelf life will decrease. All of that would leave a bad taste in my mouth.
“I really and truly think that if corporations decide to join this market, they have not just a responsibility to their consumers to not exploit them, but also they need to factor in the very real impact on the climate.”
For Škorjanc, Norton’s recent move is anything but sweet: “Norton Crypto. Just those two words together already feels wrong. For more than a decade, companies like NiceHash, who provide code-signed, secure mining software to millions of people, have been struggling with Anti-Virus companies who block legitimate mining products. Then someone at Norton decides ‘Let’s add our own miner to our Anti-Virus’. The joke’s on them, because they clearly did not research enough about how PC mining and cryptocurrencies work.
“Norton is also not exactly known for providing ‘light’ software. Most readers are probably aware that as soon as Norton 360s big yellow window pops up it immediately pushes your GPU usage to 300 per cent capacity, and you can go make a sandwich while you wait for your email inbox to open.
“For comparison purposes, NiceHash QuickMiner takes only 2 per cent, and is a one-click mining software, but the user has full control over their hardware and settings at any time. This is critically important when mining on a home PC, and even on high-end gaming PCs, because the GPUs can quickly overheat if not monitored properly. The fact that Norton does not allow any settings changes is a dangerous model that could easily lead to customers’ hardware being damaged.
“Add to this the fact that Norton will be introducing thousands of newcomers to the world of crypto and giving them a very bad first experience, I really struggle to see any benefit for end users or for the mining industry as a whole. Perhaps a small percentage of them will look elsewhere for mining software.”
Only time will tell if Norton has made the right move here, but at the very least, onlookers hope that the developers will heed the industry’s cold shoulder to truly perfect their new miner, hopefully coming forward in the future with a more welcomed development.