Well-known digital media publication Salon recently started offering its readers a “choice”. The website asks visitors to either allow ads, or allow it to take advantage of their “unused computing power”. Reportedly, this is a way to ask visitors to use their CPUs to mine Monero (XMR).
Salon’s request to mine the privacy-centric cryptocurrency is based on its dependence on ads to keep the website up and running with free content. Through a blog post, Salon reveals that newspaper ad revenue fell $40 billion from 1999 to 2010, to illustrate the problem.
The website claims it will use a “small percentage” of its users’ processing power to “contribute to the advancement of technological discovery, evolution and innovation”. While the website doesn’t reveal it, various reports claim it is using open-source code provider Coinhive to mine.
Salon further notes that the “demand for computing power across many different industries and applications is potentially very high”. Adding to this, the company claims it will use its readers’ computing power to “contribute to the advancement of technological discovery”. For now, it will just make money by mining Monero.
Unlike malware, Salon will reportedly use as much computing power as possible, without harming the user’s experience. As such, according to the publication, it will reduce the processing power being used if the user starts consuming more resources.
According to Salon:
“We automatically detect your current processing usage and assign a portion of what you are not using to this process. Should you begin a process that requires more of your computer’s resources, we automatically reduce the amount we are using for calculations.”
Salon enters the Monero mining trend
Various critics claim the digital publication’s explanation of what is going on isn’t good enough. Some of its readers who are new to crypto may not understand that, in reality, their computing power is just being used to ‘pay’ for content.
Salon is installing CoinHive onto your PC without explicitly explaining to you that it’s using your CPU power to mine for bitcoin. https://t.co/B4oEoFVenK
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) February 13, 2018
Although a lot of news outlets picked up Salon’s move, it’s been seen before. As reported by Core Media, a cryptojacking trend began when torrent-index website The Pirate Bay experimented Coinhive’s code as an alternative to ads.
The Monero-mining experiment went well, and the website decided to restart using visitor’s CPUs to mine Monero. Since then, an emerging cryptojacking trend saw cybercriminals exploit Facebook Messenger, Google’s DoubleClick ad network, and even government websites to mine the cryptocurrency.
Various anti-malware tools already include ways to prevent browsers from using people’s computers to mine cryptocurrency. Browsers like Opera and Brave are even equipped with built-in tools to prevent miners.