Nvidia’s now taken full culpability for accidentally removing its own RTX 3060 anti-mining lock, according to a statement the company made to The Verge earlier today. This follows a recent RTX 3060 beta driver release (opens in new tab) that seemed to inadvertently unlock the card’s full crypto mining potential, despite claims that multiple levels of security would make its limiter unhackable. The driver has since been removed, but with the cat out of the bag the RTX 3060 is set to join its Ampere siblings as one of the best graphic cards for mining.
“A developer driver inadvertently included code used for internal development which removes the hash rate limiter on RTX 3060 in some configurations,” an Nvidia spokesperson confirmed to The Verge today. “The driver has been removed.”
But the internet doesn’t work that way, of course. Mirrors of the driver aren’t hard to find, so what’s done is done. At least we know for sure now where the blame lies, although it's possible hackers would have figured out how to remove or circumvent the limiter eventually.
The RTX 3060’s anti-mining limiter always felt like a bit of an odd choice. Gamers might appreciate the company finally trying to dissuade miners away from buying up all of its GPU stock and driving up prices, but given that the RTX 3060 Ti, RTX 3070, RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 had no such limiters in place and couldn’t retroactively implement them without major uproar, it ran the risk of being too little too late. Not to mention the potentially dangerous precedent set by a hardware manufacturer purposefully limiting your component’s power.
To be fair to Nvidia, the driver that unlocks the limiter did seem to require some miners to flash a hacked vBIOS onto their cards, which meant using the card for mining wasn’t always as simple as downloading the update and grabbing a digital pickaxe. But that wasn’t the case in our own testing, and is still a far cry from the claims Nvidia made about the limiter’s unhackability just last month.
“It’s not just a driver thing,” Nvidia head of communications Bryan Del Rizzo said on Twitter. “There is a secure handshake between the driver, the RTX 3060 silicon, and the BIOS (firmware) that prevents removal of the hash rate limiter.”
Except when the driver skips the handshake. Whoops.
We’re curious to see how Nvidia will respond going forward. The company clearly wasn’t expecting to hack itself, but this raises serious concerns about the viability of software-side limiters going forward.
In the meantime, be prepared for the RTX 3060 to be even harder to buy than it already is.