Germany-based Avira antivirus software has made a new feature: “Avira Crypto”. It’s a subscription, but if you click Yes, the AV will use your computer to mine Ethereum.
Avira stand at the CEBIT fair in Hannover, Germany, in 2011
Many Reg Readers likely won’t have user fleets running on legacy AV, however, as security researcher Brian Krebs explained earlier today, the feature was added to an Avira product set late last year, just days after Norton360 launched its Headlines do the same.
We probably shouldn’t be too surprised, because the same company, NortonLifeLock, owns both brands. NortonLifeLock is what remains of Symantec after it split from Veritas and then bought by Broadcom.
Since NortonLifeLock also bought Avast last year, it will be interesting to see if its new owner’s fondness for internet fantasy money will temper Avast’s strong stance against cryptocurrency mining. (Just in case this page has mysteriously disappeared from the Avast website, we’ve archived it for your convenience.)
It’s funny that if Avast had to start nominating its sister products, there’s a precedent for that: At one point, Avira even mentioned Itself as malicious software.
Before Norton bought it, Avast itself bought AVG (for full disclosure, about a year after your reporter left the latter company). Both companies had issues with their additional browser toolbars, which Firefox manufacturer Mozilla described as malware.
Such moves are signs of continued consolidation in the antivirus market, since Microsoft bought GeCAD and Giant, began offering its own free antivirus software for Windows XP, Vista and 7, and then combined them, much to the ire of other antivirus vendors. .
Norton360 and Avira mine Ethereum, a cryptocurrency that differs mainly from Bitcoin in that it allows you to embed code in its own blockchain. The basis of the distributed venture capital fund “The DAO”, which was founded at the end of April 2016 under the slogan:
“To launch a new course in the organization of business for the betterment of its members, who are simultaneously in any place and in every place and act only by the immutable will Unstoppable Code. ” [Emphasis in the original.]
Unsurprisingly, by June, an attacker had exploited a vulnerability in the organization and had lost a third of its capital: $50 million. To fix the hole, Ethereum developers had to fork their own software. The pessimist can be forgiven for pointing out that including immutable code in the blockchain is a bad plan: all programs have bugs, but if they are read-only, you can’t fix them when you find them. “Unstoppable Code” is not a good thing.
The real problem is that things like browser toolbars bring in more revenue than free antivirus software, especially when the operating system vendor offers a serviceable antivirus for next to nothing.
So, instead, why not use untapped computers for mining pretending to pay ransom codes online? Paid home antivirus software is mainly sold to people who are not tech savvy, especially the elderly. It is also very likely that these same people will fall prey to get-rich-quick schemes… and that is exactly what cryptocurrencies are.
As the co-founder of Dreamwidth, Denis Polucci Observed On Twitter:
All the professional providers keep asking me about cryptocurrency because they are constantly hearing about it and they know that I am a tech person and I like ‘Look’. If this was ever going to be applicable, porn studios would accept it 5 minutes after it came out.
Then they laugh and say ‘No, I’m totally serious, if there’s something new to pay, call or store data and the porn industry hasn’t immediately adopted it on a massive scale?’ It wouldn’t be anything at all.