A theoretical question on my mind: has anyone ever tried putting a voluntary botnet at work to mine crypto-currencies for philanthropic fundraising purposes?
Botnets mining bitcoins (botcoins!) is no new idea. Though usually there not voluntary botnets, and they mine for profit, which makes it a criminal activity. See ZeroAccess for instance. Or ESEA, the gaming company that got caught mining behind its user’s backs (“serious gamers like ESEA’s customers made excellent soldiers for a botnet army: Gaming machines have powerful graphical processing units that are pretty good at bitcoin mining”). They got sued for it in the States, which gives us a nice peak into a legal discussion around non-voluntary botnet bitcoin mining.
Bitcoin mining by voluntary botnet for for-profit purposes also seems to have been tried but in more or less shady ways, see Security researchers Brian Krebs and Xylitol on FeodalCash, which promised to make your computer work in the botnet and gives you shares of what has been mined:
“Dear slave masters, check your wallets you should have received your shares now.
We are glad you’re working with us.
If you trust an organization enough that you would join their voluntary botnet, which would be like saying “Hey, I trust you, here is a little it of my computer power, we can do a lot together”, then theoretically this organization could mine its way through a successful fundraising campaign.
I wonder how many groups have access to voluntary botnets though: botnets that people have willingly joined. I can think of Anonymous’ Low Orbit Ion Cannon, LOIC, but I’m sure there are many smaller initiatives, like Computer Science labs whose students would have formed voluntary botnets (and who could mine for pizza?).
I also wonder how profitable the operation would be. Bitcoin entrepreneurs friends suggested that, in the current setting, putting a botnet of one million computers at work on the basis that they would mine when they’re not used by their users for other purposes would bring $50 000 a week. Research on botnet mining bitcoins (see this paper for instance) suggests that other sorts of cryptocurrencies would be more profitable to bot-mine. It seems very hard to model returns predictably.
There are a couple other challenges on the NGO’s side, for instance it’s not always easy to accept bitcoin donations. See EFF’s complicated bitcoin donation story. That being said, there is an impressive list of organizations that would accept bitcoin donations.
So there are a couple challenges on the road, but that would be an interesting case of useful clicktivism (or cryptivism?)…