Salon to ad blockers: Can we use your browser to mine cryptocurrency?

Ivan Schwartz
February 14, 2018

It asks readers to either disable the ad blocker or else "block ads by allowing Salon to use your unused computing power".

In the blog post, Salon says: "Like most media sites, ad-blockers cut deeply into our revenue and create a more one-sided relationship between reader and publisher".

By choosing the second option, the visitors will not see any ad pop-ups, instead, Salon will use the spare processing power of their computers to mine a very popular cryptocurrency - Monero - using the mining software Coinhive. Indeed, your computer itself can help support our ability to pay our editors and journalists. If you say yes to the latter deal, Salon will then invite you to install Coinhive, a software plugin that mines the cryptocurrency known as Monero.

Thus before allowing any website to allow them to use your computer's processing power, one must be always aware of other repercussions as well.

"We've noticed you're using an ad blocker", the popup reads.

A number of scientific projects also use spare computing power to contribute towards research.

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"We realize that specific technological developments now mean that it is not merely the reader's eyeballs that have value to our site - it's also your computer's ability to make calculations, too", it states. To their credit, Salon asks permission. If a more taxing process is initiated, the site will, in turn, reduce the amount it is using. Just in the last few days we've seen United States and UK government websites hijacked by a poisoned plugin that used Coinhive code to mine cryptocurrency, and reports of Android apps in the official Google Play store that mined Monero behind users' backs.

According to Salon's CEO Jordan Hoffner, the mining option is only one of the few ways by which the website is planning to monetize its views. However, for many companies, advertising is the only way to make money from readers.

While Monero will be the first cryptocurrency to be involved in the plan, Hoffner said Salon is planning to build a portfolio of digital coins.

The Chrome helper's CPU use shot up to 499 on my 2016 MacBook Pro, a highly unusual total on my computer even for the Chrome browser.

Salon goes on to explain the mining process by saying it's borrowing the power to solve complex calculations. Researchers "from security firm Sucuri warned that at least 500 websites running the WordPress content management system alone had been hacked to run the Coinhive mining scripts", we wrote in the October 2017 article.

The publication claims that the process only takes place when readers are on the website, and Salon will not gain access to readers' personal information or files.

Other reports by GizPress

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