If you use uTorrent to download torrents, you might want to stop. That is, unless you feel like you’re not paying enough for utilities.
uTorrent is often used to illegally download films, TV, music and software for free from a number of different computers, or peers, who already have them. So perhaps it’s ironic that the popular torrent client now turns your computer into a mindless drone programmed to mine digital currency, such as bitcoin and litecoin, at a great expense to the user.
A new form of bloatware called Epic Scale is now offered when people install new versions of uTorrent, and some are complaining that the installation is happening without their consent. During the installation of uTorrent on Windows, users are asked if they want to help “change the world” by installing Epic Scale.
So what’s the fuss? Some uTorrent users claim on the app's forums that they first became aware of Epic Scale’s impact on their computers when they noticed a rapid slowdown of their machines. The intensive CPU operations that the “bloatware” performs to mine cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and litecoin can slow down your PC, raise your power bill, and put added stress on the machine that could shorten its lifespan.
uTorrent developer BitTorrent Inc. said in a statement that the installation happens only when a user accepts it, but some argue that it was installed even when they opted-out, or declined the software while installing uTorrent.
“We highly value our users, they are a passionate and tech savvy group. In the last 24 hours we have received less than a dozen inquiries out of several million offers,” a BitTorrent spokesperson said. “We have reviewed the issue closely and can confirm there is no silent install happening. We are continuing to look at the issue. But this is most likely these users accepted the offer during install.”
That’s because cryptocurrency mining is laborious for a computer – kind of like real mining is for miners. But despite the uproar, the situation is not as simple as a greedy money grab by BitTorrent. While the company includes the software to help make money off of its free app, Epic Scale claims lofty ambitions and a chance to “change the world.”
Epic Scale claims it uses a wide network of computers to help solve equations for a number of reasons, including “weather prediction, physics simulations, cryptography (including cryptocurrency mining) and more.” The company also claims it will donate 75 percent of its profits from mining cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and litecoin to charities around the world, and is donating 100 percent of them for a limited time.
Epic Scale scale is currently donating to charities like Watsi, which claims to fund healthcare around the world, and the Immunity Project, which is researching vaccines to eradicate HIV. The company also said that it did not consent to a “silent installation,” or a surreptitious one that does not notify the user.
The user confusion over uTorrent's new "download partner" might stem from the crafty way that users are asked to download it. As ArsTechnica notes that during a new uTorrent install, the "Accept Offer" button is the default, in the location usually home to "OK" or "Next," which could easily confuse a user into accepting something they did not mean to.