One of the challenges the best antivirus (opens in new tab) software face is preventing protected systems from being hijacked to covertly mine cryptocurrency. So depending on your perspective, it's either ironic or makes perfect sense that NortonLifeLock is adding a cryptocurrency mining tool to its Norton 360 security suite. Maybe both.
I certainly didn't see this coming. The tool is called Norton Crypto (opens in new tab), and it is being rolled out to a limited number of Norton 360 users in Norton's early adopter program, who can then use it to mine Ethereum. But why?
"As the crypto economy continues to become a more important part of our customers’ lives, we want to empower them to mine cryptocurrency with Norton, a brand they trust," said Vincent Pilette, CEO of NortonLifeLock. "Norton Crypto is yet another innovative example of how we are expanding our Cyber Safety platform to protect our customers’ ever-evolving digital lives."
The past several weeks have been a wild ride in the realm of crypto, though I suppose you could say that is the norm—cryptocurrencies have been prone to wild swings in value. More recently, however, China's crackdown on cryptocurrency shook the market, causing sharp declines in Ethereum, Bitcoin, and other digital assets.
Ethereum will also soon be transitioning to a proof of stake model that is more power efficient, which could effectively kill graphics card mining (opens in new tab). By extension, that could also limit the usefulness of something like Norton Crypto, regardless of value.
Be that as it may, the tool exists and it appears bound for all Norton 360 customers at some point. At present, it only enables mining Ethereum. The built-in tool allows users to track their earnings and deposit them into a Norton Crypto Wallet that is stored in the cloud.
When turned on, the tool will mine Ethereum only when a PC is idle, at least in theory (I don't have access to the tool and therefore have not tested it). Based on the screenshot NortonLifeLock shared, there is a pause button.
I have a difficult time envisioning this being a popular feature. The profitability of mining Ethereum was cut in half (opens in new tab) earlier this year (from late February to early March), and the recent decline has made it even less profitable, especially for people clinging to older GPUs. Then there is the question of how well the built-in tool works.
On the flip side, a built-in tool should make it easier for casual users to jump into mining, if that is their desire. Hopefully NortonLifeLock makes it clear to users that they could see a spike in their electricity bill, as well as generate additional wear and tear on their GPU hardware.