A recent hot button topic in WordPress has been Crypto Mining.

What is Crypto Mining?

Mining is a way to use your computer hardware to ‘mine’ for Bitcoin (or whatever cryptocurrency). Cryptocurrency is a digital currency, generated by performing computationally expensive tasks that use a lot of your computer’s processing power. Basically a computer is paid for solving math numbers. This math solving verifies transitions, and effectively runs the cryptocurrency Wall Street.

Mining is earning money.

Why is it bad?

The problem is that you can’t actually do any profitable mining on your laptop. It’s not powerful enough. People have to build out crazy computers dedicated to mining, and those use a lot of power, which means you’ll end up paying more for electricity than it’s worth. Somewhere along the line, people decided to use the power of the crowd to make the money for them, and started to bundle mining tools in their software. uTorrent, for example, did that so every time you used their app, you made them a few thousandths of a penny. With millions of users, they make money and you pay more for electricity.

Isn’t that illegal?

Well. No. You agreed to their Terms of Use and guess what got buried in those EULA’s you clicked “I Accept” on? Surprise! Technically this means its legal. Ethical is, of course, a different matter. Mining without reporting your income on your taxes is illegal (surprise again), but the actual mining itself isn’t. But the reason why people say this is unethical is less that people are using your computer to mine, but that you don’t get any of the money from it!

How did websites get involved?

People figured out how to embed, via javascript, a mining program in websites as an alternative to those ads no one clicks. While most (if not all) web hosts will kick you off their services for using their servers to mine, this instead uses the computers of site visitors to mine. Which brings us back to the part where your laptop (or worse – phone) is being used to mine without your knowledge or real permission. Because in the case of the javascript, most aren’t asking you to opt in. All the visitors make thousandths of a coin for the website, all without knowing (except maybe wondering why the website is a little slow).

It’s THAT illegal?

Apparently not. Which is why I recommend you install and use an adblocker. I currently use Ghostery, which is an add-on for your browsers. It stops most bad actors from being loaded if they’re tracking you, but it doesn’t block all javascript. Which yeah, it shouldn’t! You need javascript for the modern web to run.

Instead, you could block bad javascript, which I do via jsBlacklist – a Safari extension. I’m sure it exists for other things, and my friend Jason has a Javascript Blacklist of all the naughty miners and services he knows.

Amusingly, Showtime’s website was mining, and we’re not yet sure how or why. It was removed quickly.

Is there a good way to use this on my website?

If you absolutely must, I recommend an approach like AuthedMine. This legit enforces opt in. But check with your web host first to make sure it doesn’t violate their terms. And above all, make sure people know what they’re agreeing to.

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