The new opt-in feature turns your idle PC into a cryptominer, with Norton skimming 15% off the top, plus market fees.
Cybersecurity software company NortonLifeLock is coming under fire for its decision late last year to begin installing Ethereum mining software on its Norton 360 customers’ PCs without their permission or knowledge.
Norton Crypto, the new Norton 360 mining component, isn’t enabled without the user opting in, but that hasn’t stopped users from taking to Norton’s Crypto forum to register their discontent, and they aren’t all upset about the sneaky installation.
One look at Norton’s forum reveals that the vocal portion of its user base is angry because software that many consider a form of malware was installed without their consent, they’re having difficulty uninstalling it, they’re upset about Ethereum mining’s toll on the environment and more.
There is plenty to be suspicious about when it comes to companies asking permission to mine cryptocurrency on your computer, but it’s a good idea to take a step back and see what Norton is proposing.
According to the Norton Crypto FAQ, its software is opt-in can be disabled in the Norton Crypto dashboard and pays out rewards split between a pool of all its crypto-mining Norton 360 users. All you need to do is fire it up and Norton will handle everything else, including thresholds, your wallet and the decision of when/when not to mine. Users are free to transfer their Ethereum out of their Norton wallet and over to Coinbase.
Norton also probably doesn’t want to build more of a reputation as selling software that fries hardware, so they’ve made the requirements for using Norton Crypto somewhat strict: An NVIDIA GPU with at least 6GB of memory, a 1GHz processor, 2GB RAM, Windows 7 SP1 or newer, and it won’t run on Windows 10 in S mode or machines that use ARM processors.
Probably the most notable thing that detractors have hit on (aside from the unasked-for software installation) is the 15% “mining fee” that Norton scrapes off the top, which means you’re immediately losing 15% of the Ethereum you mine. That’s in addition to the subscription fees users are already paying.
In addition, Norton doesn’t cover any transaction or gas fees associated with selling or transferring Ethereum out of its wallet to Coinbase. More than one Norton Crypto forum poster said that they were unable to withdraw their balance, as the fees would exceed what they had earned.
Then there’s the problem of energy consumption: Is the additional electricity expenditures incurred by so small a contribution to the Norton mining pool enough to come out ahead once you get your share of the earnings? Like Bitcoin, Ethereum energy consumption is ridiculous: A single Ethereum blockchain transaction eats up more than 100,000 Visa card transactions, or roughly the amount of energy the average U.S. home uses in a week. Miners directly contribute to that level of energy consumption, so it’s important to ask what you’re actually getting back in return, which in this case may turn out to be a loss.
Several people have also raised alarms due to the fact that Ncrypt.exe, the actual application doing the mining for Norton 360, can’t be easily uninstalled. Users report having to actually locate Ncrypt.exe and manually delete it with Norton deactivated. There’s no guarantee, however, that it won’t be automatically reinstalled when Norton 360 is next updated.
SEE: Metaverse cheat sheet: Everything you need to know (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Cybersecurity expert Brian Krebs said on his blog that there’s another concern: Norton’s reach will put cryptocurrency in front of people who may not be ready for its security challenges. “[Norton Crypto] will be introducing millions of perhaps less-savvy Internet users to the world of cryptocurrency, which comes with its own set of unique security and privacy challenges that require users to “level up” their personal security practices in fairly significant ways,” Krebs said.
Norton 360 customers: Do you plan to use Norton Crypto, or have you already? Sound off below to help your fellow readers understand more about it.
I’ve reached out to Norton for elaboration on some of Norton Crypto’s features and perceived problems, and will update this article with any response.