Many readers were surprised to learn recently that the popular Norton 360 antivirus suite now ships with a program which lets customers make money mining virtual currency. But Norton 360 isn’t alone in this dubious endeavor: Avira antivirus — which has built a base of 500 million users worldwide largely by making the product free — was recently bought by the same company that owns Norton 360 and is introducing its customers to a service called Avira Crypto.
Founded in 2006, Avira Operations GmbH & Co. KG is a German multinational software company best known for their Avira Free Security (a.k.a. Avira Free Antivirus). In January 2021, Avira was acquired by Tempe, Ariz.-based NortonLifeLock Inc., the same company that now owns Norton 360.
In 2017, the identity theft protection company LifeLock was acquired by Symantec Corp., which was renamed to NortonLifeLock in 2019. LifeLock is now included in the Norton 360 service; Avira offers users a similar service called Breach Monitor.
Like Norton 360, Avira comes with a cryptominer already installed, but customers have to opt in to using the service that powers it. Avira’s FAQ on its cryptomining service is somewhat sparse. For example, it doesn’t specify how much NortonLifeLock gets out of the deal (NortonLifeLock keeps 15 percent of any cryptocurrency mined by Norton Crypto).
“Avira Crypto allows you to use your computer’s idle time to mine the cryptocurrency Ethereum (ETH),” the FAQ explains. “Since cryptomining requires a high level of processing power, it is not suitable for users with an average computer. Even with compatible hardware, mining cryptocurrencies on your own can be less rewarding. Your best option is to join a mining pool that shares their computer power to improve their chance of mining cryptocurrency. The rewards are then distributed evenly to all members in the pool.”
NortonLifeLock hasn’t yet responded to requests for comment, so it’s unclear whether Avira uses the same cryptomining code as Norton Crypto. But there are clues that suggest that’s the case. NortonLifeLock announced Avira Crypto in late October 2021, but multiple other antivirus products have flagged Avira’s installer as malicious or unsafe for including a cryptominer as far back as Sept. 9, 2021.