Are You Mining? Check Your Browser

Browser-based mining is popping up, in the open or in secret. And while you may voluntarily donate processor time for a cause or a favorite coin, finding out your computer is mining without consent is stressful.


Over the weekend, US viewers who wanted to binge-watch a series also mined some Monero. A JavaScript miner was released on the Showtime.com and ShowtimeAnytime.com sites. Monero and other cryptocoins of the same algorithm are suitable for small-scale mining, and if enough computers do the work, the owner of the miner will reap significant rewards, given today's market prices for Monero. 

Experts believe the script was not intentionally placed on the site, but was the work of a hacker. The code was found in the section dealing with web analytics, provided by NewRelic, reported The Register.

"Upon reviewing our products and code, the HTML comments shown in the screenshot that are referencing NewRelic were not injected by New Relic's agents,"

said Andrew Schmitt, PR and communications expert at the analytics company.

Mining scripts are easily available for any user who is not above hijacking visitors' CPU power. CodeHive was the source of the script, the same one that appeared on The Pirate Bay last week. But this time, the script required too much hashing power from users, slowing down computers too much and causing complaints.

Recently, Moonbit.co.in, a popular faucet, added an in-browsed mining component that allowed users to choose how much hashing power they would provide. CodeHive also has offerings for mining through URL shorteners and captchas. 

CodeHive has something of a publicity problem. While mining may be a way to replace on-site ads, it is still considered a tool for hackers and scammers. But with the rising popularity of cryptocurrencies, this may become an everyday reality for users. 

The Monero community is split over the idea of micro-mining. Some believe this gives a bad image to the cryptocurrency. Also, having more miners increases the difficulty and requires more hashing power. Others accept it as an anonymous approach to monetizing a site, without collecting user identities to target ads. Some also believe micro-mining will help popularize cryptocurrencies. Donation sites present the idea well enough, as users just need to keep a browser tab open and donate even without performing a cryptocurrency transaction- just working for the blockchain.

Through a browser, much more users could learn the concept of "proof of work" and realize that cryptocurrencies are more than "money out of thin air."