One of the world’s most popular free antivirus applications, Avira, now includes a cryptocurrency mining tool embedded in its software solutions, joining Norton 360 in embedding Ethereum mining code. The module is present in Avira’s entire product stack, from its free antivirus through paid security solutions. Avira also notes that usage of the mining module is completely opt-in. And according to the company, it will only take advantage of unused processing cycles on user machines that satisfy the module’s system requirements.
Once enabled, the “Avira Crypto” module in Avira’s free antivirus suite connects the user with an Ethereum mining pool, where they can contribute to distributed PoW (Proof of Work) workloads while receiving Ethereum rewards that are proportional to their computing power. The cryptocurrency mining module was first detected through Virus-Total as early as September 2021, after being flagged by other cybersecurity solutions as containing cryptocurrency mining trojans (there’s some measure of irony there).
The move may seem surprising, but it seems like it’s part of an additional monetization effort from Avira and Norton360 parent-company: Tempe, Arizona-based NortonLifeLock Inc. The company announced the acquisition of Avira for $360 million back in January 2021, creating an $8-billion (at the time) cybersecurity juggernaut and bringing Avira’s users into its ecosystem. In August 2021, NortonLifeLock announced it had reached yet another acquisition deal with wildly popular cybersecurity software company Avast.
That particular business deal, valued between $8.1 billion and $8.6 billion – and the third most expensive acquisition in cybersecurity history at the time – added an extremely significant 435 million users to NortonLifeLock. The company has made it clear that these acquisitions pave the way towards reaching a worldwide install base of 500 million users for its cybersecurity products. But considering this cryptocurrency mining integration, it seems NortonLifeLock is also looking to achieve a 500 million cryptocurrency miner install figure. Both Avira and Norton 360 apply a 15% fee on all Ethereum rewards generated by their respective “Avira Crypto” and “Norton Crypto” modules.
The inclusion of mining software in cybersecurity solutions is a particularly complex affair, considering how cryptocurrencies demand specific cybersecurity measures from their users. Avira does provide a FAQ on the matter covering the most basic elements of crypto and blockchain technology, but mostly it describes and asserts limited liability, as well as warning users that their mining efforts may result in utility costs that surpass the possible Ethereum earnings. And right now is a particularly bad moment for any such efforts, considering how the cryptocurrency market has been bleeding value of late. Of course, Avira and Norton’s own 15% share of the profits will always be there, so long as there are profits to be had. And since the company is using users’ hardware and utilities, its profits happen irrespective of mining efficiency.
If you’re wondering why an “Avast Mining” module still isn’t present on the Avast antivirus suite (and its much more significant 435 million user install base), you can count timing as one of the reasons: The deal isn't expected to be complete until mid-2022. The fact that NortonLifeLock is keeping a clear branding scheme with its “antivirus + Crypto” naming does seem to point toward a unified cryptocurrency mining vision for its cybersecurity products. That's one way to fill the company’s coffers after its recent buying spree. Only time will tell exactly how much this strategy pays off.