The rise and fall of cryptocurrency prices around the world catch the interest of almost everybody. That interest isn’t limited to just the technology world, either. Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) are under constant scrutiny by the global financial industry.
And some people aren’t content with using their own resources to pay for or mine cryptocurrency — so they’re going to use yours instead. I’m not talking about a cloud mining scheme.
I’m talking about a world renowned piracy website co-opting your CPU power to mine Bitcoin for themselves. While not strictly necessary, you may want to learn about what CPUs are and how they work before continuing with this article.
The Pirate Mining Bay
They mine Monero because it is impossible to mine Bitcoin with a CPU.
A Controversial Move
Of course, forcing your users to use their CPU power to mine cryptocurrency for you is absolutely going to divide opinion. Let’s briefly examine the opposing opinions.
There are a surprisingly large number of users encouraging and supporting The Pirate Bay.
This is for a few reasons, one of which is important: revenue. Given the content of The Pirate Bay, and the strict advertising rules laid out by Google (and other advertisers), attracting decent and wholesome advertising to TPB is difficult. There are more than a few comments suggesting this source of income would be worth opting in to and sharing CPU resources — if it meant a reduction (or the removal) of any adult content advertisements.
Others suggest that regardless of advertising, many users can actually spare some power due to the general trend for increasing CPU power.
With the positive, there is a healthy chunk of negative.
One of the main concerns is the underhanded nature with which TPB has approached this. While some users claim TPB long before informed users that the trial would be taking place, the vast majority see this as a sneaky cryptocoin grab at the expense of the users.
Per the comment above, some users would have been happy with the transition from adverts to CPU-powered crypto-mining, but are unhappy they weren’t warned it would happen.
CPU Mining or Adverts?
I’d like to say the question is as simple as looking at adverts or not… but it isn’t.
The adverts are fueling a pirate file sharing service. And whatever your beliefs, the vast majority of content shared on TPB is illegal. The administrators of TPB keep the site going through the multitudes of law enforcement and government scrutiny.
— Brendyn (@LeetBee) September 20, 2017
Adverts pay to keep the site alive. That said, they’re not the most unobtrusive adverts. Some of them are less than tasteful, to say the least — but bills are bills, and someone has to keep the lights on.
The flipside is sharing some of your CPU power with the website so they can mine Monero coins. While less visually intrusive (you can keep your retinas intact), is it appropriate to use the CPU power of every visitor to the site?
And while TPBs administrators confirmed there was “a small typo” in the code meaning that all unused CPU power was acquired for mining, even the corrected “20-30 percent” use rate could still cripple some machines. Let alone the additional wear and tear on your CPU, and the electricity to boot.
Don’t Wait for the Opt-Out
There are a few ways you can do this:
- Use a script-blocking addon such as NoScript (Firefox) or ScriptBlock (Chrome).
- Specifically block the miner URL using an ad-blocker addon.
- Visit The Pirate Bay using Tor (or any other privacy-focused browser that uses script blockers).
Adding to the well-known script blockers are a generation of browser extensions specifically designed to block popular crypto-mining scripts using your CPU power. Both minerBlock and No Coin are available for Google Chrome. Of course, if you actually want to allow certain sites to use your CPU power, both extensions have a whitelist feature. Better yet, the code for both extensions is available on GitHub, too.
It appears that the filter that catches the JS embed is `||coin-hive(dot)com^$third-party`, in the latest base uBlock Filters list.
— Troy Martin (@Kazinsal) September 21, 2017
Consent or Not
It really does come down to consent. Trade your privacy for advertisements, or your CPU power for cryptocurrency. The guys over at The Register ran some extremely loose numbers. Check them out. Their loose estimate shows a whopping $123,000 revenue per month.
As they say on the site, they’re “willing to be way off the mark.” They likely are. But if enough users contribute computing power, The Pirate Bay administrators will end up with a significant amount of Monero. And doing it without permission is well… borderline malware.
But before everyone condemns The Pirate Bay (and here are some alternatives if you have), let’s remember that they’re not first torrent-focused service to try and profit from cryptomining through their users. uTorrent, anyone?