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Nvidia Hacks Its Own GeForce RTX 3060 Anti-Mining Lock (Updated)

Graphics Card
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Early reports are piling up that cryptominers have deciphered Nvidia's anti-mining algorithm on the GeForce RTX 3060. Theoretically, it's one of the best graphics cards, if you could find one for anything close to the official $329 MSRP. The Ampere graphics card was also supposed to be less attractive to miners, but it appears that the chipmaker shot itself in the foot and inadvertently posted a driver that unlocks mining performance on the RTX 3060. Meaning, anyone can unlock full mining performance with a minimum of effort.

Nvidia was pretty confident that its anti-mining algorithm is unhackable, which naturally put out an invitation for cryptominers to try to crack it. The chipmaker even affirmed that "End users cannot remove the hash limiter from the driver. There is a secure handshake between the driver, the RTX 3060 silicon, and the BIOS (firmware) that prevents removal of the hash rate limiter." While the verification sounds like an intricate process, someone inadvertently released a workaround for it.

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Ethereum mining with old and new drivers on RTX 3060

RTX 3060 12GB with Nvidia 461.81 drivers at ~28MH/s (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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Ethereum mining with old and new drivers on RTX 3060

RTX 3060 12GB with Nvidia 470.05 drivers at ~48MH/s (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The simple hack reportedly requires a clean driver install with Nvidia's latest GeForce 470.05 Beta driver — some report the need to flash the GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card with a hacked vBIOS, though in our testing that's not required. Nvidia apparently messed up something in this particular driver that renders its anti-mining algorithm completely useless.

Above, you can see Ethereum mining performance using the 461.81 drivers, topping out at around 28 MH/s after tuning. (We set the power limit to 75% and boosted the memory clock by 1,250 MHz using MSI Afterburner.) With the 470.05 drivers, using the same power and clock settings, we're now getting a consistent 48 MH/s. It's also interesting that power use didn't change between the drivers, coming in at around 118W in both cases.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, Nvidia will likely remove the driver and pretend that it never existed. Sadly, the news is everywhere, meaning that cryptominers will be back on the hunt for GeForce RTX 3060 graphics cards. Not that they weren't already, considering what we're seeing in our GPU pricing index.

  • exploding_psu
    Don't want to be "that guy", but it reeks sabotage for me. Some disgruntled mate probably released the driver out of personal reasons. But of course, maybe I've been looking at it for too much and it really is just a pure mistake on their part.

    Still, local store asks 1000 AUD for one, far above MSRP, so performance or not it's still unattractive for me unfortunately.
    Reply
  • LolaGT
    It was just a matter of a very short time anyway, regardless how it got out.
    Reply
  • JarredWaltonGPU
    exploding_psu said:
    Don't want to be "that guy", but it reeks sabotage for me. Some disgruntled mate probably released the driver out of personal reasons. But of course, maybe I've been looking at it for too much and it really is just a pure mistake on their part.

    Still, local store asks 1000 AUD for one, far above MSRP, so performance or not it's still unattractive for me unfortunately.
    There's the alternative view: Nvidia did it on purpose, because it has a bunch of mining customers that wanted this fix.

    "Oops, we accidentally posted a development driver that nuked our mining limiter. Sorry."
    Reply
  • bigdragon
    Completely expected. There was no way the mining limiter was going to stick. I had expected miners to publish workarounds and custom firmware and such. Seeing Nvidia themselves push an update to break the limiter reeks of malfeasance. Nvidia can afford to have testers for their tester's testers -- there is no excuse not to be checking the integrity of the mining limiter.

    Mistakes happen, but this looks like a pattern now. Nvidia fails to have enough launch stock, fails to address stock shortages for 6 months ongoing, fails to address sales channel problems (quantity limits, bots, supply chain interdiction, etc.), fails to reign in their AIB partners, and now fails to test their own updates against the highly publicized mining limiter feature. Ebay and Amazon can step in to police the sales of Dr. Seuss books but can't do a thing about Nvidia GPUs?

    Nvidia GeForce is for miners. GTFO gamers and content creators!
    Reply
  • blacknemesist
    Well isn't that nice! Why get a 3090 at 2400 euro when you can have the same for 3x less lol

    Maybe AMD will be the bigger man and actually do something to protect their card in the next gen but they are so far behind it hurts : AMD RTX is lackluster and FXSS is worst that DLSS 1.0 :s still a long way to go but it is time to turn away from nvidia
    Reply
  • hotaru.hino
    AMD can't do anything either. Trying to prevent hardware from running software is a losing game. The only thing I can think of is to make GPUs with fixed function units again, which would basically roll back all GPU development by 18 some years.

    And even then, I'm pretty sure said GPU would still be a good enough performer for mining.
    Reply
  • NightHawkRMX
    I really do think this was on purpose for a few reasons:

    1) In order for a driver to get out into the wild, it would have to get approval of multiple people. If one person did go against that and release it, they would probably CERTAINLY be fired and face legal issues.

    2) Nvidia is a company. The only thing they REALLY care about is making money, and they do not care if it comes from a miner or a gamer or anyone else. Releasing this would mean potentially more 3060 sales, and I cannot really fault them for being a business.
    Reply
  • Neuspeed
    Hmmm I don't see 370.05 Beta drivers anywhere online.

    Update: So it looks like this post had the wrong driver listed. It's supposed to be the 470.05 Beta driver.
    Reply
  • cryoburner
    Oh, what a complete and total surprise.

    It seemed unlikely that the whole "mining limiter" thing would be useful from the start. It's just a product of Nvidia's PR department trying to push the message that they are on the gamers side while simultaneously doing everything they can to appeal to mining operations. In reality, it seems pretty clear that the 30-series was designed first and foremost as a mining GPU, back when Nvidia was seeing how much mining was improving sales during the last crypto-craze.

    exploding_psu said:
    Don't want to be "that guy", but it reeks sabotage for me. Some disgruntled mate probably released the driver out of personal reasons.
    Removing the lock can only improve sales of the cards. Perhaps someone could have been paid off to release a driver with the limiter removed, but it could just as easily be that Nvidia quietly removed the limiter in a version of the driver to make the card more appealing to mining operations. Not that the limiter was doing much for the end-users anyway, since even with it in place, the cards were being sold for nearly three times their MSRP, just like all the others.
    Reply
  • atomicWAR
    JarredWaltonGPU said:
    There's the alternative view: Nvidia did it on purpose, because it has a bunch of mining customers that wanted this fix.

    "Oops, we accidentally posted a development driver that nuked our mining limiter. Sorry."

    Before I even started reading posts I was thinking the same thing. I honestly don't know if this is true, it could just be a goof. For a company like Nvidia who's greed comes off as immense, I find it far more likely this was all a PR stunt and intentional. I can almost hear the meetings break down in my head...

    "How do we buy some good will from gamers during this crypto boom without selling the good will of miners?", says random exec A

    "The way I see it sir is we release an unhackable handshake between the driver and the bios for new cards so they can't mine and we release old cards without display ports saying these will be for miners only...", says random exec B

    "How does this not piss off miners?" responds exec A

    "Well sir we wait a few weeks to see if our lock is foul proof. If miners hack it great but if not we 'accidentally' release a driver that breaks our own lock so we can keep selling these cards to miners," starts exec B, "Then as the crypto boom slows down we release a work around for mining only cards much like what happened in the last boom allowing users to tunnel display information out via their motherboards display port(s) so miners can sell their cards on the used market. While they will work for gaming, they'll be slightly less attractive on the used market which means more new sales but Miners can still sell some their stock to the more technically savvy gamers so miners can make back some of their profit margin. We sell more cards while decreasing the used market without eliminating it all together, upsetting both miners and gamers. It's a win, win sir."

    "Is this technically feasible"
    As exec A looks to engineering who nods, "Great exec A and engineering get bonuses if they can make this happen in under 90 days..."
    Reply