(Bloomberg View) — If you thought internet ads were annoying, consider this: The websites you visit could now be harnessing your computer to do cryptocurrency mining.
Digital currencies demand a lot of computing power. To complete each block of transactions, computer owners around the world must race to solve an extremely difficult cryptographic puzzle, with the winner getting paid in the relevant cryptocurrency. To increase their chances, such "miners" invest vast amounts in processing capacity — building server farms in far-flung places where electricity is cheap — and are always on the lookout for inexpensive ways to get more.
Website publishers, for their part, are constantly seeking new ways to generate revenue. Subscriptions can be a hard sell. Ads are less than ideal: They often repel users, they can be hijacked by bots and Russians, and big players such as Google typically take a cut of the revenue. So some are resorting to an untapped resource: selling miners access to the computing power of the people who visit their sites.
Here's how it works. Let's say you go to a site devoted to cat pictures. When your web browser loads the first page, it also initiates a script that instructs your computer's processor to do calculations for a cryptocurrency miner, who could be located in Germany or just about anywhere. You might notice nothing more than a slightly slower computer and a slightly higher electricity bill. The miner
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