Showtime and other sites can mine cyptocurrency using your PC

There are many proponents for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, and they'll cite any number of reasons. Unfortunately, one problem that keeps resurfacing is that there are tons of questionable, shady, and even outright illegal use cases where cryptocoins are incredibly useful. This weekend, Gizmodo reports that Showtime's website apparently got involved in mining cryto, without the users' consent.

We've talked periodically about cryptomining over the past few months, mostly in relation to how much it affected the prices of many popular graphics cards. What's going on with Showtime, and The Pirate Bay when it tested the software a week ago, is a bit different. Instead of GPU-based mining, there's a new service called CoinHive that works with JavaScript to do CPU-based mining. But isn't CPU mining dead? Not quite—and if you can get the power for 'free,' which is what happens with websites, so much the better.

The most profitable CPU-based cryptocoin right now is called Monero (XMR), and you can gross about $0.50 per day with an i7-7700K. Ryzen 7 CPUs could even break $1 per day, while older generation hardware might be in the $0.10-$0.30 per day range. Take a website with tens of thousands of users, and the potential for profit can add up quickly—provided the users don't notice.

Multiple sites reported finding CoinHive code on Showtime's website, and Showtime's only comment so far has been a 'no comment' to Gizmodo. While ShowTime has since removed the code that activated the CoinHive miner, and CoinHive itself is against such unauthorized uses, this likely won't be the last we hear of this sort of thing. Hackers now have another tool to include in their arsenal, one that could quickly earn large sums of money. Whether the source is a malicious advertisement or some other outside influence, we have one more reason to pay attention to CPU usage while surfing the web.

Jarred Walton

Jarred's love of computers dates back to the dark ages when his dad brought home a DOS 2.3 PC and he left his C-64 behind. He eventually built his first custom PC in 1990 with a 286 12MHz, only to discover it was already woefully outdated when Wing Commander was released a few months later. He holds a BS in Computer Science from Brigham Young University and has been working as a tech journalist since 2004, writing for AnandTech, Maximum PC, and PC Gamer. From the first S3 Virge '3D decelerators' to today's GPUs, Jarred keeps up with all the latest graphics trends and is the one to ask about game performance.