This is how the new Norton 360 Protection software for cryptocurrency works

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Norton has been criticized for integrating a cryptocurrency miner into its Norton 360 protection software. Activists such as Cory Doctorow have said the company “sneaks up crypto mining software on your computer” and takes a stake revenues, and publications such as PC Mag, Krebs on Security, and Digital Trends have reported consumers expressing dissatisfaction with the Software. While there is some truth to these statements, we investigated further and found that they were exaggerated.

Norton revealed this summer that it is adding a crypto miner to its Norton 360 security suite, promoting it as a safer alternative to downloading sophisticated and “unverified” mining applications from the Internet. It was initially available exclusively to a small number of people, but now appears to be available to anyone who installs the program – although there hasn’t been much talk about the software in the roughly six months since its release. 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. From a technical point of view, this is correct; my colleague Sean Hollister installed Norton 360 for himself and discovered the mining application NCrypt.exe in the program directory.

The short version is that Norton installs a crypto-miner with its software, although it did not disclose it during the original setup process. However, it won’t do anything until you’re explicitly enabled, so don’t expect to install the security suite and immediately see your computer slow down while it calculates crypto in the background.

When we asked Norton if they would commit to having the feature always on, a spokesperson, Spring Harris, said: “[the] The feature requires unique device hardware and user agreement to operate. We are open and honest about how our software works on user devices, and we have no plans to change.

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

Norton Crypto will create a wallet for you and start mining Ethereum with your computer’s GPU as soon as you turn it on (its system requirements say you need an Nvidia or AMD card with at least 6 GB of memory). All earnings will be sent to the wallet you create for yourself on a regular basis, and if you reach a certain threshold, you can withdraw them to Coinbase.

Norton has a vested interest in users’ use of the feature. When BleepingComputer tested the software last year, it found that Norton gets 15% of all mining profits. Without going into too much detail about how mining works, according to Norton Crypto’s Terms of Service (PDF), the company operates a mining pool that pools everyone’s computing power to increase the chances of exploit a block – when this happens, everyone who has contributed to the power gets a share of the rewards. Norton gets a piece of the pie with this award.

To bring everyone together, swimming pool operators frequently take a percentage charge. The fees, on the other hand, are often closer to 1 or 2%, which is much 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 purchasing a copy, we also had to provide our payment information so that it could automatically renew every year).

Are the profits from mining enough to justify the high costs, or should you view them as a convenience cost so you don’t have to figure out how to join a pool yourself (which is usually a pretty technical process? )? We put it to the test by using a Kill-A-Watt power meter to track our electricity usage. What were the results ? We broke even for what we earned versus what we paid for electricity due to the current difficulty of mining a block and Ethereum prices. In real terms, a single night of mining on an RTX 3060 Ti grossed 0.66 cents in Ethereum and cost $ 0.66 in off-peak electricity. Norton pocketed all of the profits.

Norton’s strategy might be a tough sell even if you had better mining equipment and less electricity. It deposits your Ethereum into your Norton Crypto wallet, but you’ll need to cash it in if you want to use it or exchange it for fiat currency – at the moment the only way to do that is to transfer it to a Coinbase account. However, the Ethereum network will charge you a transaction fee (also known as gas fees) if you do so. This may imply that you have to create a lot of cryptocurrency before removing it from your wallet. Norton makes financial sense.

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