Research conducted by various high-level IT companies on the economic and environmental impact of web mining shows that web miners, applications running in user browsers, and cryptocurrency miners consumed nearly 20 gigawatts of electricity two years ago. We have to be aware that it poses a great danger to the environment…
To bring this figure closer to ordinary people, we’ll put it this way: It’s comparable to the energy consumption of an entire country such as Poland, which is a lot given that this country is the fifth most populous member state of the European Union, and shows that the impact of web mining on the environment is approximately 800 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
Is Web Mining Harmless?
Web mining or theft of cryptocurrencies, especially of Bitcoin, through search engines is a threat to which many users are regularly exposed without even realizing it. Speaking of Bitcoin, it vastly depends on the Bitcoin price performance. You can only notice these activities if you check the source code of a web page or notice that certain web resources are burdening your device when they are open.
Web mining actually uses website visitors to achieve its goal and is an alternative method of cryptocurrency mining. Website owners convert the capacity of their users’ devices into cryptocurrency, while the user’s browser is turned on and running in the background. In certain cases, however, websites inform users of their exposure to such a scheme and seek their consent, explaining that web mining is done for the purpose of monetizing the website without showing annoying ads or paid subscriptions.
Web mining is often considered a harmless activity that doesn’t result in a significant loss of money and only consumes a small amount of energy. To bust these myths, the researchers analyzed statistics from a report obtained through Kaspersky security solutions that prevented web mining activities in 2018. The researchers concluded that, while individual losses may be considered insignificant, the global impact is surprisingly scary.
Environmental Footprint as a Consequence of Web/Cryptocurrency Mining
According to these calculations, the amount of energy consumed through web mining can be up to 1,670 MWh, unless the website blocks the code responsible for starting mining. If we turn that into carbon dioxide emissions according to the global average of the International Energy Agency (IEA), that’s equal to about 800 tons of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere in 2018.
Electricity prices for such high energy levels can vary from a few hundred dollars to half a million dollars, depending on the country of origin. The amount of energy needed to support this would be three times higher than the production of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant a year before the infamous incident.
There are many legal and technical initiatives aimed at reducing the impact of web mining, and there has been a significant reduction in this activity last year. However, as long as there is an economic benefit from web mining, there will be attempts to burden the processors of victims who suspect nothing.
And perhaps more importantly, this is a rare type of cyber hazard that creates a significant negative environmental footprint. This means that preventing such operations is not only a matter of cybersecurity but also something that indirectly helps save the environment.
How to Protect Yourself
This is definitely an unexpected thing, but it should be kept in mind when assessing the seriousness of web mining. That’s why we urge everyone to protect themselves with a security solution that checks web pages for a script that starts and stops web mining.
To prevent your personal device from being used for web mining purposes, the following is recommended:
- Pay attention to the performance of your computer: if the computer starts to shut down or freezes, it may be a sign of malicious activity.
- Check if your system is significantly overheated – this is a sign that the processor is overloaded, which is typical for web mining.
- Start by using a reliable security solution that provides protection against web miners.
- If you’re a company, a dedicated corporate product for cybersecurity can help.