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Nvidia Cops to Uncapping Crypto Performance on RTX 3060

GPU for Ethereum Mining
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

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 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.

  • atomicWAR
    Nvidia, "Yeah we accidentally on purpose broke our own hash rate limiter so we can sell these to miners. Sorry not sorry!"
    Reply
  • GenericUser
    I'm not sure why this warranted a separate article as opposed to just an update of the previous one. We already knew everything other than the most recent statements by the company. It's not like it was a mystery where the driver came from either; the download link for it provided in the previous article goes straight back to Nvidia's own website.
    Reply
  • Phaaze88
    I'm looking forward to the flood of 30 series cards that hit the 2nd hand market for cheap when the next hard crypto-crash happens, and Nvidia's reaction afterwards when the next gpu lineup doesn't sell as well.
    It didn't help the already unimpressive Turing sales at all when the last crash happened; plenty of GTX 10 and RX 400/500 cards were available.

    I'm not one to purchase anything 2nd hand, but I understand that I'm an odd man out for thinking like that.
    Reply
  • blacknemesist
    GenericUser said:
    I'm not sure why this warranted a separate article as opposed to just an update of the previous one.

    Same reason why CP77 was updated every 5 min : hot news sells and reporters business pratices are comparable to those of miners.
    Reply
  • exploding_psu
    Phaaze88 said:
    I'm looking forward to the flood of 30 series cards that hit the 2nd hand market for cheap when the next hard crypto-crash happens, and Nvidia's reaction afterwards when the next gpu lineup doesn't sell as well.
    It didn't help the already unimpressive Turing sales at all when the last crash happened; plenty of GTX 10 and RX 400/500 cards were available.

    I'm not one to purchase anything 2nd hand, but I understand that I'm an odd man out for thinking like that.

    Funny thing is those cheap Pascals and Polaris are currently skyrocketing in price today, maybe the same thing will happen in the future when 40 or 50 series cards launches right at another mining boom, who knows.
    In the end I'd probably drive my current GPU(s) to the ground, poor mates can't have a rest
    Reply
  • Phaaze88
    exploding_psu said:
    Funny thing is those cheap Pascals and Polaris are currently skyrocketing in price today, maybe the same thing will happen in the future when 40 or 50 series cards launches right at another mining boom, who knows.
    In the end I'd probably drive my current GPU(s) to the ground, poor mates can't have a rest
    The crashes will happen. It's just a matter of when, but they're inevitable. The system is simply not infinitely sustainable.
    The folks in favor of crypto will try to keep the bubble going for as long as they can, but only those with money and resources can afford to absorb the loss from the crashes and keep on pumping.
    That's why this whole thing looks like a Ponzi Scheme.
    Reply
  • cryoburner
    Not to mention the potentially dangerous precedent set by a hardware manufacturer purposefully limiting your component’s power.
    That's not really accurate. In fact, all of Nvidia's consumer graphics cards already put artificial limits in place to greatly limit their performance in certain professional workloads, as a means of encouraging professionals to spend multiple times as much on their workstation and data center cards.

    And while the higher-end cards didn't have such a limiter put in place, those could always be added for refreshed cards, like if they were to decide to launch a new "SUPER" lineup later in the year, trading mining performance for a little more performance in other areas.
    Reply