The company behind the ad blocking program Adguard has analyzed the most popular 100,000 websites for cryptocurrency mining scripts. They found that over 500 million people have been mining cryptocurrencies and “they have no idea it is happening.” Each website running the script earns an estimated $43,000 within the three-week period studied.
Over Half a Billion People Affected
Adguard, which produces an ad blocking program with the same name, recently analyzed websites for cryptocurrency mining scripts following the news that some of them have been using their users’ browsers to mine cryptocurrencies. The top 100,000 websites as ranked by Alexa were inspected. Co-founder and CTO Andrey Meshkov shared his company’s findings on Thursday.
“We looked for the codes for Coinhive and JSEcoin, the most popular solutions for browser mining in use now,” Meshkov wrote. The analysis revealed that 220 of these websites have been using crypto-mining scripts. The four most targeted countries are the U.S., India, Russia, and Brazil.
We found 220 sites that launch mining when a user opens their main page, with an aggregated audience of 500 million people. These people live all over the world; there are sites with users from the USA, China, South American and European countries, Russia, India, Iran… and the list goes on.
Replacing Ads with Mining Revenues
Adguard estimated that each website running a crypto-mining script earned about $43,000 within the examined three-week period. While they have not made millions, Meshkov said, “this money has been made in three weeks at almost zero cost.”
Most of the sites using cryptocurrency mining scripts are “pirate TV and video sites, Torrent trackers and porn websites,” he described. Video streaming platforms are ideal for mining, he explained, citing “they boast a huge audience that keeps their site open in their browsers for a long time.” The largest torrent search engine, The Pirate Bay, was recently caught using Coinhive, which was also found to be used on CBS’ Showtime websites. Meshkov suggested:
The ethical way for a website to earn money by mining through its audience’s computers is to ask the audience for permission first, and to allow them the possibility to opt out. Actually, such a practice could make mining even more ethical than ads. After all, nobody asks us if we would like to see ads on a website.
While the Coinhive team has issued a statement asking website operators to ask user permission before using their CPUs to mine cryptocurrencies, Meshkov explained that it is difficult to enforce this recommendation. “For example, they cannot forbid stealth mining,” he said, adding that there are other ways to prevent websites running crypto-mining scripts without users consent. “A popular CDN service called Cloudflare recently started to suspend accounts and deny service to sites that mine without user permission,” he detailed, noting that “a number of ad blockers and antivirus programs also added features that block browser mining.”
Do you think that more popular websites will use browser mining to replace advertising? Let us know in the comments section below.