Much has been written about the efforts of The Pirate Bay and Showtime to secretly use visitor’s processing power to mine for cryptocurrencies. Amidst this tremendous outpouring of rage, hurt feelings, and calls for increased transparency, I’m here to offer a few cold, hard facts:

What’s Being Mined? 

Cryptocurrency is created–mined–when users solve challenging math problems, providing a solution to a “hash algorithm” and continuing what is known as the “blockchain.” Essentially, this is a way of tallying and authenticating whatever transactions occur using said currency, thereby creating a public ledger for verification.

Contrary to popular belief, however, Showtime and The Pirate Bay are not mining the infamous Bitcoin, but rather the less-circulated and less-difficult-to-mine Monero.

It’s like this, minus the camaraderie. Photo by: J.C. Burrows

How Can I Tell if It’s Happening to Me? 

With ad revenue becoming increasingly scarce, more sites are sure to jump on this tactic. Its important, therefore, to be able to tell when your computer is being used for these purposes.

Because your processing power is being secretly siphoned, your CPU usage should be abnormally high. Close all programs (except for the suspected infiltrator) and check your levels; for a Mac, that’s Activity Monitor, and for Windows that’s Task Manager. The processing power used by these covert programs tends to be between 20-25%.

Is What They Did Illegal?

Not really. Like most tech innovations, laws aren’t yet on the books to forbid this type of thing. However, the backlash from the uncovering is likely to force others to adopt a more open approach, as The Pirate Bay has announced that from now on it will ask users’ permission before mining.

However, in 2013, a company called Tidbit did receive a subpoena from the New Jersey AG’s office for an identical offense of “gain[ing] access to computers owned by persons in New Jersey, without the computer owners’ knowledge or consent” to “mine for the virtual currency known as Bitcoin.” The state eventually settled for a $25,000 settlement to be enacted should the site fail to reform.

Paper money? That stuff’s for cavemen.

What Can I Do About It?

AdBlock Plus, your partner in crime for avoiding pop-up ads, has recently (likely in response to the Showtime fiasco) released a browser extension to avoid having your computer used for mining cryptocurrency. An explanation of various browser’s installation methods can be found here.

 

And now, for the question you’ve all been wondering…

 

I’m a Content Creator, Can I Get This On My Site

Indeed you can! Here’s a link for Coinhive, the Monero-based miner employed by Showtime and TPB, and another for JSECoin. No pickaxes required!