Yesterday, we wrote about Norton’s Crypto software (opens in new tab), which allows users to mine Ethereum directly via Norton’s security software via a simple to use interface. We talked about the many concerns that arise, not to mention the excessive 15% fee that Norton takes off the top. Given that Norton is set to make a huge amount of money from this, it’s no surprise that Avira’s security software is set to include a similar app (opens in new tab). Avira is a newly acquired subsidiary of Norton.
Avira Crypto appears to function in much the same way that Norton Crypto does. In all fairness, the feature is opt-in only and it’s disabled by default. It’s ease of use and legitimacy are positives. The basic premise is that users use the processing power of their PC in order to earn Ethereum, though Avira says it will consider other coins in the future. Given that crypto mining requires some technical understanding, it can be considered an easy entry point into the cryptocurrency ecosystem.
However, the concerns remain the same. The cryptocurrency ecosystem remains akin to the wild west. There are ongoing security, economic, taxation, political and environmental concerns (opens in new tab). The legacy financial system has yet to catch up. This means that presenting this kind of mining software upon users who don’t fully understand cryptocurrency is dangerous, if not downright shady. Never underestimate the lure of what some will misinterpret as ‘free money’.
There’s every chance that a user won’t make any profit at all, once the pool fee, electricity cost and Ethereum fees are taken into account. Just today, the gas cost of a single eth transaction was over $33 (opens in new tab) and it can go a lot higher than that, so unless you’re mining long term or have powerful hardware, a user may end up running at a loss. Norton and Avira won’t be though, thanks to that 15% pool fee. We’d love to see Norton’s private wallet to see all that eth pour in.
Avira offers a free product, which means there’s the possibility that hundreds of millions of users will be exposed to this software. Interestingly, Norton is in the process of merging with Avast, its former competitor, so it's possible, if not probable that Avast products will include a crypto mining component sometime in the future.
What’s next? Kaspersky? Trend Micro? AVG? How about Facebook, Google or Microsoft building it into Windows? Regulators will probably have to step up to prevent uses from falling victim to unscrupulous software providers. Don’t be fooled by PR talk that spruiks ease of use or security and protection from bad actors. Norton and Avira are in this to make money. Truckloads of it. Other companies will surely follow suit.