Norton and Avira under fire for cryptomining features (Image Credit: Executium on Unsplash)Norton 360 and Avira, two anti-virus solutions, now install cryptomining software. The rationale from Norton is that it is better to use its code than users downloading untested and unverified code from the Internet.

Norton Crypto and Avira Crypto are installed with the main product. However, neither activates the crypto solution by default. Instead, they rely on users to click on a button and follow the activation processes. Part of that activation process ensures that the machine meets a minimum technical criteria for memory and the GPU.

The installation adds the user to a cryptomining pool. Being part of a pool increases the speed at which crypto can be mined. The user also gets a personal wallet into which any mined crypto is placed. Users can then sell that crypto via a service such as Coinbase.

Beware the hidden costs

There are several things a user needs to take into account before starting to mine crypto.

  • Electricity: Beware of the cost of electricity as it has a significant impact on your profitability.
  • Ethereum hashrate: The number of hashes your computer can mine per second. The higher, the better. Each mega hash per second generates just under .0000006 ETH.
  • Power consumption: The power consumption of your computer in Watts.
  • Hours: How many hours per day will you be mining Ethereum?
  • Fees: The Norton Crypto FAQ says that it takes a 15% fee to cover the costs of coin mining and transaction costs to put crypto into each users wallet. The Avira Crypto FAQ provides no detail at all. However, as both are part of the same company, Avira will likely charge the same.
  • Tax: In the UK, HMRC will tax your cryptocurrency under Capital Gain Tax (as detailed in this document)

Once you have all these, you can calculate how much Ethereum you can mine per hour and how profitable, or not, it can be. For example, if your power consumption is 1350 Watts and you pay £0.25 per kWh, you will consume £0.3375 in electricity per hour.

A rate of 350 MH/s will generate .00020935 ETH per hour.

If we take a price of $3,015 (£2,218) per ETH, you would be making £0.46 of ETH per hour. Deduct the £0.3375 electricity cost gives a profit of just £0.1225 per hour. Out of that, the crypto software will take its 15% fee, leaving just £0.104 per hour. You still have tax to pay when you come to sell that so the profit you mean gets even smaller.

Why is this important to businesses?

If people are using their personal computers, it is of no concern to the business. As Norton said last year when it started a limited trial, better they use the software we provide than something they download from the web. For those who use the same machine for working at home, provided they are not mining while working and therefore degrading their productivity, that should be the end of it.

The issue comes when this is a work computer. If the equipment belongs to the company, any cryptocurrency generated using it belongs to the company. It doesn’t matter if that computer is at your home or in the office. It is the same if you invent something on company time. The company, not the employee, gets the benefit.

However, there is a greater issue here, and that is sustainability. Several countries have outlawed crypto mining, while others have brought in strict controls. The electricity used to mine crypto creates strains on electricity grids. Additionally, the majority of electricity generation worldwide still uses fossil fuels. That means CO2. For companies, this means they need to think about how it will impact their carbon footprint.

Companies should already be considering the impact that working from home has on their corporate sustainability planning. Users crypto mining on company equipment won’t help reduce that.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean?

A lot of the froth about how Norton 360 and Avira install the cryptomining software is just that, froth. It is not turned on by default and can be uninstalled. To use it, users have to opt-in, and they have to meet certain hardware requirements.

However, many will not have thought through the costs involved, such as electricity and the vendors’ pool fees. It means many may not be making the sort of sums they believe they should. Additionally, there are legal issues over who owns the generated crypto if company hardware is used.

What is not clear is which anti-virus vendor will be the next to offer a crypto option. Norton 360, Avira and several other antimalware brands operate under the NortonLifeLock brand. It is also undergoing a massive merger with Avast. Will Avast be the next to go down this route if that merger goes through?

There is also a question for businesses here. Do they want to spend money on endpoint solutions that are also cryptomining? Many will probably say no. It will be interesting to see how this plays out and whether other endpoint solutions vendors can capture a slice of the NortonLifelock business.


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