More than 100 million users of the trusted torrent platform are at serious risk of having their laptops and PCs literally destroyed. T
Bundled with the latest install of the free software is a program called Epic Scale leeching your laptop’s resources in secret.
Epic Scale is a currency miner that generates revenue for its creators, though it publicly sells itself on being a completely philanthropic venture ::::
Problem is µTorrent’s terms of service make no bones about the massive downside:
“You release Epic Scale and its agents … from and against all claims … arising from or related to (i) the use of the Application on your computer, including without limitation any blowouts or other damage to your computer from overheating due to intensive use of graphics cards or chips, or any slowing of your processing speed… We may use your computer’s processing power, network connection, memory and storage for various purposes, including, but not limited to, cryptocurrency mining, data processing, data analysis and/or scientific research and development.”
The shady package was discovered and posted on the µTorrent forums by a user named Groundrunner, who said that the program installed itself without prompting.
“It’s easily noticeable by the increased CPU load when the computer is idle,” Groundrunner wrote in the post. “When I updated uTorrent to version 3.4.2 build 38913 (32-bit) this morning it silently installed a piece of software called EpicScale. There was no information about this during installation and I did opt out of your other bundled software.” the user said.
Plain English: In addition to the risk of your computer instantaneously, without notice, crapping itself, Epic Scale perpetually wastes RAM, battery life, as well as making money for someone else. And while the bundle is opt-in, it’s all too easy for µTorrent clients to overlook it upon installation.
EpicScale is a bitcoin miner that also purports to use your “unused processing power to change the world”. It’s easily noticeable by the increased CPU load when the computer is idle. The file date/time on the EpicScale files matches the time of the uTorrent update, which confirms uTorrent as the source.
An administrator for µTorrent confirmed that the program was, in fact, being installed on Windows machines, where it was generating Litecoin – similar to Bitcoin – sending them back to µTorrent and Epic Scale. The program could be uninstalled, but only if you actually realized it existed in the first place.
“Epic Scale is a cryptocurrency miner that uses a portion of your CPU cycles to contribute to the mining effort. A portion of the proceeds from this effort go to philanthropic initiatives,” the admin wrote. “Epic Scale is a great partner for us to continue to generate revenue for the company, while contributing funds to good causes. In the future, Epic Scale plans to contribute CPU cycles to other initiatives, such as Genome mapping and other academic studies that require a great deal of processing power.”
The program doesn’t install itself silently, as many other websites have reported, however. It’s part of the standard installation process that µTorrent has turned into its main source of revenue. It’s one of three separate pieces of not-so-great software you can easily install by clicking the wrong button. And, wow, if you mistakenly do this, you’re in for a treat.
Epic Scale uses your idle machine for endeavors like “solving math problems for weather prediction, physics simulations, cryptography (including cryptocurrency mining)” and also “genomics research, protein folding, image rendering.” It of course does this for the profit of Epic Scale, though the company maintains a significant portion of proceeds “fund high-impact charities and advance research science at the same time.”
Epic Scale says that it does not spy on users or scour browsing history. But it does operate across millions of machines, many of which belong to people unaware that a program running in secret has the potential to short-circuit their laptop.
From Epic Scale’s agreement:
“We may use your computer’s processing power, network connection, memory and storage for various purposes, including, but not limited to, cryptocurrency mining, data processing, data analysis and/or scientific research and development.”
You are also giving Epic Scale access to your data and personal information.
Christian Averill, a spokesperson for BitTorrent, which owns µTorrent, said that the company takes “claims of silent installs very seriously” and noted that anyone installing this “is accepting the offer separately from our software. These are strictly opt-in.”
“I mean with every install you make, you need to look at what you’re clicking on and be mindful of that,” he said. “There’s a clear accept, do not accept tab.” Mr Averill said.
If we’re sticking strictly to the facts, he’s right about that. Except the “Accept/Do Not Accept” tabs are very similar to the ones you need to simply install the program without bloatware, and Epic Scale isn’t really sold as being something that could potentially destroy your computer.
Epic Scale, as a program that someone consciously downloads, installs, and runs when they want it to run, sounds like it’s fine. But as a program that’s installed with other software at the mere click of the button, one that is probably running on, Averill said, literally millions of computers in order to make other people money, it’s a nightmare. Besides being a privacy invasion and a potential security risk, the program slows down your computer, wasting power and giving cryptocurrency to someone else.
Someone purporting to be a founder of Epic Scale noted in a comment thread where users were complaining about the software that it does “use the PC at a low level when it’s in use. Many users only use a fraction of their computation resources (email, Microsoft word, etc.) If the user is trying to do something intensive, we stop running.”
All this in mind, there are other BitTorrent clients out there that do the exact same thing as µTorrent, without the bloatware. µTorrent has been slowly sliding backward for years, safely installing it on Windows without accidentally adding some terrible, difficult-to-remove toolbar or bloatware is a nightmare, requiring you to click through a series of mindbending, often non-nonsensical prompts.
On Mac, the only thing it asks you to install is a horrific Yahoo toolbar, however that too, is in a prompt that has been modified to look like a general terms of service prompt.
So, uninstall µTorrent, and don’t look back. Transmission has been around for ages and is still excellent. Deluge – my choice – is cross-platform torrenting software that is also a solid choice, as is Vuze – which used to be known as Azureus – is also bloat-free. Or, if you must, download an old version of µTorrent and never-ever, ever update it.
Epic Scale says it donates a “high portion” of the money it misnes to charity, but hasn’t said what that percentage is – list of charities – nor has it provided any proof of it doing so.
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