Coinhive to Mine Its Last Monero in March

coinhive monero cryptomining

The controversial cryptomining service is shutting down.

Coinhive, the company behind an eponymous browser-based cryptocurrency miner, is closing its doors.

As of March 8, the 18-month-old company will discontinue its service, because, it announced, the model “isn’t economically viable anymore.”

Coinhive bills itself as a legitimate service for website owners – implanted JavaScript uses the computational resources of the end user’s machines to mine the Monero (XMR) cryptocurrency. The script impacts visitor’s system performance, but the idea is to provide a monetization alternative to placing ads on a site; surfers are simply paying with their processing power instead of their eyeballs.

It seems like a good model on the surface, but in the notice on its website, posted on Tuesday, Coinhive management said that a 50 percent drop in the hash rate after the latest Monero fork “hit us hard.” The hash rate refers to the speed at which a mining operation is completed – i.e., how long it takes to uncover one block of currency. If the speed is too slow, the processing costs will outstrip the amount of currency mined, and thus decrease the profitability of the operation. In a browser-based scenario like Coinhive’s, a website may not have enough traffic for mining to be completed in a timely fashion, thus yielding little revenue for a site owner.

Making matters worse, Coinhive management also mentioned the “crash” of the Monero cryptocurrency market, “with the value of XMR depreciating over 85 percent within a year” – combined with the hash rate problems, this has made cryptomining much less lucrative than it once was.

And the final kiss of death, the company said, was an announcement that a hard fork and algorithm update of the Monero network is coming up on March 9, which may negatively affect the hash rate even further.

Monero tends to be criminals’ currency of choice when it comes to this so-called cryptojacking activity, because mining it requires fewer computing, power and cooling resources than a heavier cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. And Coinhive quickly became controversial after its launch because cybercriminals quickly found a way to embed it into compromised websites, unbeknownst to website owners – from the Los Angeles Times to the Colorado Attorney General’s office.

In fact, according to Check Point’s 2018 Global Threat Impact Index, at this time last year a full quarter (23 percent) of organizations worldwide were affected by a Coinhive variant. The firm even named Coinhive to be January 2018’s No. 1 most-prevalent malware.

Some unscrupulous websites also ran afoul of the ethics line by not informing site visitors that a mining operation was taking place, further impacting Coinhive’s brand image.

“Cryptomining is a big business and exceeded ransomware in popularity,” Andy Singer, vice president of Product Marketing at enSilo, told Threatpost. “It’s become easier to build mining rigs, and Coinhive’s platform certainly helped by making mining more accessible. enSilo….research regarding mining strategies and tactics … indicate advances in the ability of miners to evade detection and operate in stealth. These advances suggest that mining is really moving more into the shadows versus signaling a decline in popularity you might think with the closing of Coinhive.”

Even so, it appears that Coinhive’s heady days as a darling of the cybercrime community are definitely over: Its era is coming to a close.

“Mining will not be operable anymore after March 8, 2019,” according to the notice. “Your dashboards will still be accessible until April 30, 2019 so you will be able to initiate your payouts if your balance is above the minimum payout threshold.”

Threatpost has reached out to Coinhive for more details on its shuttering.

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