Casimir Stone
January 6, 2022

You may’ve heard by now that Norton is bundling a crypto mining feature in with their antivirus software. You may’ve not, considering it’s only publicized in this footnote of an FAQ, and, presumably, some novel-length user agreement’s fine print. Aside from the fact that this constitutes the literal definition of the sort of adware Norton purports to defend against, it’s caused some uproar because the company is also skimming 15% off any cryptocurrency mined via the software for itself.

While this is generally upsetting to me in the same way that capitalism-as-the-internationally-accepted-system-of-economic-governance is upsetting, I find myself siding less with the instant Twitter outrage and more with the equally inevitable Slate op-ed. It argues that the story shouldn’t be about the software, but about what a crypto pivot from such a household name means for the antiviral industry at large — in short, Norton was only good for uninstalling competitors and generating annoying pop-ups in the first place, and, in the susceptible crypto landscape, will fit in just fine. 

As someone who once had a major dissociative episode after a bad torrent downloaded antiviral-engine-hawking scareware onto my laptop, I am predisposed to agree. (I figured it must be a CIA-designed rootkit installed to drive higher order thinkers like myself to insanity, but we don’t need to go down that rabbit hole, now do we?) By nature, web3 is notoriously ill-equipped to deal with the variety of scams and privacy-invasive business practices endemic to it. It’s telling that Norton’s response, rather than trying to pioneer some new form of cybersecurity, was: ‘Fuck it! Let’s get in on that action.’ 

I suspect, as crypto technology continues to evolve, the pivots will only continue, too. Perhaps some will be even more transparent cash grabs than what we have here. There’s a lot of access to a lot of money in the space, after all, which unfortunately doesn’t just attract historically marginalized communities, but, somewhat obviously, billionaires and corporate giants, as well. Even the new web3 blue chips like OpenSea fall back on exploitative business practices, resting the responsibility of security entirely on the customer. Secure ownership rights and equitable access to resources draw many consumers into crypto, but businesses are here for the same reason as always: profit. It’s healthy to remind ourselves that we can’t look to the latter for the sort of innovation that the technology offers, and the former deserves.

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