In a surprise move, one of the world’s best-known anti-virus software makers is adding cryptocurrency mining to its products.
Norton 360 customers will have access to an Ethereum mining feature in the “coming weeks”, the company said.
Cryptocurrency “mining” works by using a computer’s hardware to do complex calculations in exchange for a reward.
It is not clear what the business model for Norton Crypto is, or if Norton will take a cut of earnings.
The company pitched the idea as a safe and easy way to get into mining, an “important part of our customers’ lives”.
In a press release, Norton LifeLock – once called Symantec – said: “For years, many coin miners have had to take risks in their quest for cryptocurrency, disabling their security in order to run coin mining.”
That is true, in so far as anti-virus software packages such as Norton itself often falsely identify widely used mining programs as dangerous, and the antivirus software often needs to be deactivated to continue the mining process.
Norton also warns of “allowing unvetted code on their machines” and the danger of storing earnings on a hard drive which could fail.
But most keen miners use a small selection of well-regarded mining apps – some of which are little more than simple command-line scripts – and a digital wallet that is stored on the web or on a smartphone.
Mining Ethereum as a solo miner is very difficult, relying on luck and powerful computing hardware to receive coins.
Screenshots provided by Norton seem to suggest that the system will instead use a “pool” – where a very large number of miners all contribute whatever computing power they have and split the reward based on how much work their machines did.
But such pools almost universally take a percentage cut – a 1% cut of all earnings being a widely used standard.
A screenshot provided by Norton showing its mining interface
If Norton pursues such a model it would, in effect, leverage its millions of customers’ computers to generate a new income stream.
And the process uses a lot of energy – which may mean higher energy bills for unsuspecting consumers.
The company is considering adding other cryptocurrencies in addition to Ethereum in the future.