Coinhive buzzes off

The most popular cryptomining service closes its virtual doors over drops in coin value and other industry changes.

In a blog post this week, the in-browser Monero mining service Coinhive announced it would discontinue service on March 8, 2019. “Some of you might have anticipated this, some of you will be surprised,” the post begins. It then goes on to explain how the “project” is no longer economically viable, citing “the ‘crash’ of the cryptocurrency market with the value of XMR depreciating over 85% within a year.” That, plus an algorithm update that increased difficulty in mining Monero, clarified for the company that it could no longer continue.

Coinhive has been a controversial company since it launched in 2017. Positioning itself as an alternative to banner ads, the service allowed websites to use their visitors’ processing power to mine for Monero. It was all supposed to be above-board and transparent, and some sites, like those run by UNICEF and Salon, were appropriately upfront with its visitors, informing them that as they visited the site, their CPU power would be tapped for cryptomining.

But the cyber underworld soon caught on that they could use the Coinhive code on any site secretly without asking for visitor compliance. Bad actors started creating Coinhive accounts, and running the code on websites without visitors knowing, and the cryptojacking began. It quickly meteored to the cybercriminal’s most common form of attack before losing its luster almost just as quickly. It fell out of favor for multiple reasons, most notably because cybersecurity experts developed software that could detect cryptojacking and the value of digital coins plummeted. Whereas a Monero coin was worth $400 last year, it’s worth less than $50 today.

Coinhive says it will keep its dashboards functioning through April so account holders have time to manage their payouts.

“While non-malicious cryptomining does exist, the truth is that the vast majority is used to drain resources of users’ computers without their knowledge,” adds Luis Corrons, Avast security evangelist. “Last year at Avast, we started detecting and blocking all cryptomining; if a person really wants to mine cryptocurrencies, he or she has an option to allow it. But by default, we block it all.”

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