Salon website asks readers to mine cryptocurrency

A news website is asking permission from its readers to mine cryptocurrency with their computers, using a tool favoured by criminals. 

US news website is asking visitors who are using an advertisement blocking tool to use give up some of their unused computer power to harvest digital coins, in exchange for viewing articles on the site. 

Cryptomining can slow users browsers to a crawl and quickly drain battery on mobile devices because it requires a large amount of computational power to complete cryptocurrency transactions. The code used by Salon mines Monero, a cryptocurrency similar to Bitcoin, currently worth $243 per coin.

Hackers have been known to hijack popular websites and inject them with cryptomining tools, siphoning computer power without the person knowing, in a process dubbed cryptojacking. Despite the controversy, some see it as a potential revenue stream to replace online advertising.

„For our beta program, we’ll start by applying your processing power to mine cryptocurrencies to recoup lost ad revenue when you use an ad blocker,“ Salon said in a statement on its website.

Salon claims the tool can help recoup some money lost to ad blockers, although it is more intensive on users‘ computers, causing them to heat up.

„Mining uses more of your resources which means your computer works a bit harder and uses more electricity than if you were just passively browsing the site with ads,“ Salon said.

Salon is using the crypto-miner Coinhive, which found in a number of government websites, with The Telegraph reporting the code had been found in sites including the Information Commissioners Office, local government sites and the Student Loans Company.

Several other sites have tested using cryptomining as a source of revenue, including the file-sharing website The Pirate Bay.

Most cases of the coin-mining code are malicious, however, planted by hackers to steal user electricity and computer power.