from the tales-from-the-crypto dept
If you’re in the IT industry, as I am, and you come across someone talking about using Norton or Symantec antivirus software, as I occasionally do, it typically sends you diving for your calendar to check what year we’re in. The a/v provider, once dominant in the space, has since built a reputation for itself as bloated software that is mostly effective at grinding your computer to a halt. Whether or not that reputation is deserved, the company has also had issues in the past with users claiming an inability to fully remove Norton software when attempting an uninstall. So, a checkered recent past is the point.
Which makes Norton the perfect antivirus company to rollout an update to its Norton 360 platform to allow customers to mine Ethereum with its software!
What is Norton Crypto?
Norton Crypto is a feature made available in Norton 360 which you can utilize for mining cryptocurrency when your PC is idle. Currently, Norton Crypto is limited to users with devices that meet the required system requirements.
Now, the FAQ has, as its second bullet point, a notification that this is all opt-in… but I am 99% sure that wasn’t there when I first viewed it. (Editor’s note: Sure enough, Wayback Machine shows that the page did not originally say that it was only opt-in — though it also does not say that it’s only opt-out). Shame on me for not grabbing a screenshot to be sure, but there were plenty of folks on Twitter who read through it and took this all as sneaky and opt-out.
This is fucking wild. Norton “Antivirus” now sneakily installs cryptomining software on your computer, and then SKIMS A COMMISSION. https://t.co/6s2otyCd78
— Cory Doctorow (@doctorow) January 4, 2022
Now, about that cut that Doctorow references. The FAQ notes that there is no software licensing fee needed to utilize this feature. It’s included in your Norton 360 subscription. However, Norton also takes a 15% cut of all cryptocurrency that is mined by the user’s computer. Twitter had much to say about this as well. Some see this as mostly a free money-grab by Norton, getting a 15% cut when nearly all the mining work is being done on its customers’ computers. Others pointed out that, based on the price of Ethereum, current mining rate projections, and the cost of energy… using this software might actually be a net-negative revenue generator for anyone using it, due to the increase in energy consumption to keep an otherwise idle machine spending GPU cycles to mine crypto.
And still others have pointed out that there are already complaints from users of the platform over, you guessed it, a convoluted process for uninstalling the feature from their computers.
However, according to mAxius and other users, there is no way to fully opt out of the program, and you actually have to dig into NCrypt.exe in your computer’s directory to delete it.
That may not seem like a big deal, but Norton has a rocky relationship with its user base, and the company has seen controversy in the past for poor transparency and not entirely deleting files when uninstalled.
So, in summary, Norton proudly announced that it was adding a feature for users to repurpose antivirus software to mine cryptocurrency, which likely wasn’t clearly labeled as an opt-in feature, in order to take a 15% cut from its own customer base when its used and which it made difficult to actually uninstall if a customer wants to be rid of it.
I’ll give Norton this, at least: this is all very on-brand.