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The Pirate Bay Takes Heat for Testing Monero Mining

By David Jones
Sep 19, 2017 3:15 PM PT

The Pirate Bay has come under fire for testing a Monero javascript miner as a possible means for generating new revenue to replace its current model of making money through advertising on the site.

The Pirate Bay Takes Heat for Testing Monero Mining

It used a cryptocurrency miner from Coinhive, essentially hijacking the processing power of its own users to help generate revenue, TorrentFreak reported last week.

Limited Options

Monero is an open source digital currency, like bitcoin, with one important difference.

"Monero is one of the few valuable cryptocurrencies that can be mined with CPU power, which is why it is the choice for many malware miners," said Sherrod DeGrippo, director, emerging threats, at Proofpoint.

Cryptocurrencies usually are mined with CPU power initially, she told LinuxInsider. Users then find ways to speed up the hashing before going to GPU. They build specialized hardware and field programmable gate array (FPGA) chips to carry out the hashing function in order to mine much faster.

"Monero uses cryptonight algorithm, which so far as we can tell is fastest on CPU," DeGrippo added.

The miner has caused many users to see a sudden unexplained jump in CPU usage.

While few would quibble with the site's need to find additional revenue streams, some users were angered by the lack of prior notice.

"You didn't make an effort to let us know beforehand??" commented user Zhangsun. "You seem to lack respect for your users."

In the future, all coining scripts would be blocked, said Zhangsun, who also promised to notify the public the next time The Pirate Bay attempted to use any 'sneaky' tactics on its users.

Par for the Course

That The Pirate Bay would engage in cryptocurrency mining doesn't come as a shock, given the issues it has dealt with over the years in seeking revenue -- but in this case, the price of the ticket could be the long-term trust of its users, said Ed Cabrera, chief cybersecurity officer at Trend Micro.

"Pirate Bay is a peer-to-peer file sharing service, and their primary income is advertising revenue. However, the revenue tends to be modest by comparison to the explosive growth of cryptocurrency in the last two years," he pointed out.

Ad-sponsored sites basically are user funded, to the extent that users want to endure ads and vendors want to place ads in front of those users, observed Paul Teich, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

"The proper, civilized thing to do would be to offer users a range of funding options, such as ads, mining cryptocurrency and perhaps a simple annual donation," he suggested.

"But Pirate Bay is, well, Pirate Bay," Teich added. "If Pirate Bay elected to pirate some cycles from user computers, would we really not expect that?"

Damage Done

The notion that The Pirate Bay effectively would borrow resources from its own users is not the problem, suggested Jessica Groopman, principal analyst at Tractica.

The outrage stems from the way it was done, she told LinuxInsider.

"The notion of exploiting underused compute from across the network is one we've seen other businesses and universities consider as a way to leverage computing resources at night time or while students are away for the holidays, so this in and of itself is not far fetched," Groopman said. "What raised eyebrows and anger around this was that Pirate Bay did so without informing its users."


David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain's New York Business and The New York Times.


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