Mar 06, 2015

What is an automatic cryptocoin miner like that included in the recent uTorrent update and how will it impact users?

A user posted on the uTorrent forums that there was an automatic cryptocoin (or cryptocurrency) miner included in the latest uTorrent update. That account has since been suspended, so it’s difficult to get more details. Assuming the post was correct, how will this impact uTorrent users?
It will be negative. You machine will be doing math computations behind the scenes, which is going to take system resources, use additional electricity, make it run hotter, make it run slower....all for someone elses benefit.

There was a discussion about this on Reddit a few days ago, and redditor Wessex464 has an excellent summary of what’s going on with cryptocoin mining:

"Basically, coin mining is using your computer to try to solve hard math problems. If I asked you tell me if 17 was a prime number, you could figure it out by finding saying its not divisible by 2, 3, 5, 7,11 or 13, therefore you know its prime. Now if I ask you to tell me if 16593826571 is a prime number, you have to test every prime number. Computers are good at this, but it takes time.

This information is valuable for computer security. Think about coming up with word puzzles where a puzzle maker replaces one letter with a symbol or another letter. These new messages are encrypted, meaning that someone needs to know what to replace letters/symbols with. You might say your good at that and can break those easily, so its not very secure. Computers are really really good at those, as they can check hundreds or thousands of combinations quickly.
Cryptokeys are mined by having computers figure out what numbers they can use to modify the word puzzles by that make it extremely difficult for other computers to break. The coin aspect is the currency the person who commissions you to find a good number(the key) gives you. This is worth money like a dollar is worth money, its not actually worth anything but it can be exchanged for goods/services.

So, utorrent now wants to use your computer to help figure out these keys and thus get coins. An automated system sends instructions to your computer, along with thousands of others to do these math problems. That means utorrent gets coins from the companies and is making money from your computer.

The reality is your computer is terribly inefficient in figuring out these problems. In fact, if you "mined" a coin right now with your computer, it would take quite a while and when you were done the coin you would get, when converted to cash, probably wouldn't even pay for the electricity your computer used figure out the key and earn the coin. But if its your electricity bill and utorrent gets the money, they don't care so much about the cost do they?

Edit: I should point out that the key mentioned above is not just a big prime number, the process of creating the actual key is fairly complex as detailed by eye_can_do_that states below.

I also forgot to mention that many people are working on the same problem at a time and so using just a single desktop computer for this purpose is a horrible idea as your efforts will nearly always be wasted as someone else will find the answers faster. That's where using a network of computers let's multiple people band together and multiple computers can work towards the same answer and increase the speed of solving problems as a team. There are groups you can join that do this, but they normally share any earnings the group gets between participants or you join one where all proceeds go towards a charity. In this case utorrent is keeping the money."
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