Information Systems Integration – Tony Messina

Over 500 Million Users Mine Bitcoin Without Knowing It

bitcoin mining 500 million computers

The ad blocking firm AdGuard published a report that found up to 500 million users were visiting websites that ran background cryptocurrency mining software. AdGuard identified 220 popular websites that ran the crypto-mining scripts. Machines that visited these sits had their processing unit hijacked and used to mine bitcoin, which has generated an estimated $43,000 for the website hosts in the three weeks these scripts have been active, with little to no cost. While users were effected all over the world, the majority of users were from the United States (18.66%), followed by India, Russia, and Brazil (13.4%, 12.44%, 8.13%, respectively). 57% of the websites that utilized in-browser cryptocurrency mining consist of four major categories: TV/Movies (22.27%), File Sharing (17%), Adult (10%), and News/Media (7.73%).

There are major ethical issues that arise when websites begin using visitors computer power to generate revenue without informing them. It is difficult to monitor whether or not a website is deploying stealth mining, and therefore becomes difficult to regulate that websites that partake in the practice request permission from users.

Should websites have to ask for permission to use your computer for crypto-mining? How would you feel about websites using this to replace revenue generated from advertisements? Would that be better or worse?

Sources: https://news.bitcoin.com/half-billion-people-mining-cryptocurrencies/
http://www.newsweek.com/500-million-pcs-secretly-mining-cryptocurrency-research-bitcoin-683982

3 Responses to Over 500 Million Users Mine Bitcoin Without Knowing It

  • This story sounds quite interesting. In addition to what you post, I also read the article saying that hackers use AWS to mine bitcoin. Considering its sky-rocketing price appreciation, bitcoin mining is really hot topic and answering your question, I think websites don’t necessarily notify the users that it uses visitors machine powers to mine coins. If somehow such sites burden users PC, it should notify users but essentially, unless the website is inevitable for their daily life, the visitors would not choose to go see such sites. As for replacing revenue from ads, I feel it’s better as some studies show that people actually don’t like ads while they are surfing the internet. So, overall, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to happen as long as such websites follow the rules posed by server providers and related regulating entities.

  • I am not okay with this personally but their are browser extensions/existing ad blockers that will prevent this from happening. I have read about sites that do this when you have an adblocker turned on to compensate for the loss of ad revenue, but now that it is this well known, I think all the major adblocking extensions support blocking this type of activity. Maybe less people would use ad blockers if advertisements were less intrusive and appropriate.

  • I cannot accept the way if websites do not ask me first, or even just notify that they will stealth mining while I visiting their sites. However, in the premises of assuring the security of my private info. and unaffecting my behavior of Internet uses, it should not be a problem for me when they ask for a permission to use my computer for crypto-mining.

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