Most internet sites generate revenue through advertising. But when you run a pirate website and provide access to films and a whole host of other copyrighted media to the masses, advertising is not a suitable source of revenue. The Pirate Bay has tested an ingenious solution to help keep the website afloat; ‘borrowing’ user’s CPU to mine cryptocurrency, specifically monero, while they browse the site.

Visitors to the website discovered a JavaScript code which uses the PC processor cycles to ‘mine’ the digital currency monero (XMR). Although it does not occur every time the site is visited, using your task manager (if you’re on Windows), you will be able to tell from the sharp spike in CPU usage. Not all pages have the JavaScript code embedded, apparently only the categories listing and search results run this code.

Torrent Freak revealed that The Pirate Bay stated the feature was under testing for 24 hours as part of a trial for new ways of generating income. The Pirate Bay even revealed that it might be profitable enough to replace ads forever. The trial run occurred on September 16, and ‘pirates’ have long been associated with cryptocurrency, especially bitcoin. The Pirate Bay, founded by BitTorrent operators, become one of the first adopters of bitcoin by accepting it as a payment method in April 2013.

Using your computer to mine monero, with or without your consent, may not sit well with some users. The website utilizes the JavaScript from Hivemind, which is self-described as “a monero miner for your website.” However, there are ways to avoid your computing power being gouged, for example, script blockers can stop the site running the JavaScript code to poach your CPU. Alternatively, the miner URL can be blocked with an Adblocker.

The rising popularity of monero and its privacy-focus means that it is also increasingly favored by bots that infect computers to mine the cryptocurrency. For instance, it is not just the Pirate Bay using other computers to mine monero, where reports indicate a botnet, known as ‘Bond007.01,’ has been causing havoc in China and earned hackers around $25,000 per month. The scheme has stolen the computing power of 15,000 computers, with the XMR gained as a result pure profit.

While many users expressed their dissatisfaction with the Pirate Bay’s new way of trying to earn some money, a response explained that there was an error with the initial configuration, using the entire CPU of a client instead of around one quarter:

“As you may have noticed we are testing a Monero javascript miner. This is only a test. We really want to get rid of all the ads. But we also need enough money to keep the site running. Let us know what you think in the comments. Do you want ads or do you want to give away a few of your CPU cycles every time you visit the site? Of course, the mining can be blocked by a normal ad-blocker. Note: Initially there was a small typo, so all CPU for a client was used. This should be corrected now so only 20-30 percent should be used. Also, it is restricted to run in one tab only so even if you have 10 tabs oven it will only be running in one.”

Cryptocurrencies are offering a broad range of income earning opportunities. The Pirate Bay’s idea is an extension of the concept that people can use their computing power to contribute to the folding project, as exemplified by Gridcoin. Instead of helping out some scientists, you are helping pirates keep their website afloat.

Businesses have thought of using idle computing power at nighttime or out of work hours to mine cryptocurrencies such as monero. Universities could use their well-equipped libraries and PC labs to mine altcoins while students are on holidays. Now that Pirate Bay moves toward mining monero to act as a suitable replacement for internet advertising, hopefully, it can show that for websites, there is another way.

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