Last weekend, the extremely popular torrenting site The Pirate Bay, was catching some flack for testing out a new system that used visitors’ CPU power to generate cryptocurrency profits for itself. This tactic has been around for years, but the high profile implementation signals that its probably time to start blocking this from happening. I’m kind of floored to be honest. No, I’m not so naive that I don’t think this couldn’t happen, but I’m shocked that someone has the gall to do something like this.
The first step in this process is to determine if you want to block sites from using cryptocurrency miners in your browser. Which, you probably do, but in case you don’t you should know they are saying that they need money to keep the site running. Maybe they do, but is this the way to do it? The administrators of The Pirate Bay (TPB) wrote a blog post explaining their reasons for doing it after people freaked out. They explained that they were testing out a new service called Coin Hive on the site that would allow them to mine the cryptocurrency called Monero while users have TPB open in a browser tab. So basically all you have to do is have a browser tab open at all times?
If you’ve ever used TPB, you are aware of the kinds of advertisements that they attract. Which means, some people might be open to allowing a little bit of their CPU power to be used in order to have an ad-free experience. But should you do this? Let’s back up a bit for a moment. TPB didn’t actually tell users that they were even testing this out. The only reason that anyone knew was due to a typo in the miner setup. The miner ended up using all of the user’s CPU power, instead of the intended 20-30%.
Miners work like a botnet. A user visits a webpage and you might be asked to give permission for the site to use your CPU, or you might not. Cryptocurrencies use a lot of processing power to run a complex hashing algorithm to find a unique string of letters and numbers. Those who do the processing are rewarded for successfully cracking the code. Typically, the older the currency the more time and processing power is necessary to find that unique hash. Mining Bitcoin with a botnet at this point isn’t considered to be worth it. But newer currencies like Monero offer an opportunity for sites as popular as The Pirate Bay to possibly turn a crypto-profit off of its millions of users.
If you want to block miners, you can do it. Well, it’s relatively easy to block the network that TPB is using. But the bad news is that you’ll need to know the specific URL for other networks. So does this sound like something you want to participate in? Does an ad free TPB sound enticing to you? Or are you willing to live with the ads, so long as TPB doesn’t have access to your CPU?