BitTorrent client uTorrent has come under fire from users after it emerged the software’s latest update comes bundled with Bitcoin mining software.
The piece of software, named Epic Scale, is a Bitcoin miner that purports to use your ‘unused processing power to change the world.’
According to one user, the software is ‘easily noticeable by the increased CPU load when the computer is idle.’
Unfortunately, the problem lies in the fact that users say they weren’t asked they wanted the software to be installed, although it must be noted that the uTorrent team flatly denies that silent installs have occurred.
UPDATE: Since this story broke we've dug a little deeper into the installation process and story behind Epic Scale. Read: Epic Scale and uTorrent: Bitcoin mining 'riskware' investigated
A thread on the uTorrent forums by user ‘Groundrunner’ says: “There was no information about this during installation and I did opt out of your other bundled software.”
The issue specifically relates to uTorrent version 3.4.2 build 28913 (32-bit), which is the company’s most recent update.
Another user, dubbed ‘Adrenelized’, said there was ‘never a warning about it’, despite installing uTorrent completely fresh to his or her system.
uTorrent's forum is now inaccessible citing "This account has been suspended". This could be down to the excessive traffic following the Epic Scale news.
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A senior manager for customer support at uTorrent did reply to the thread, explaining that it designs its software to ensure partner software downloads ‘don’t occur without approval by the user’.
“Epic Scale is a great partner for us to continue to generate revenue for the company, while contributing funds to good causes,” wrote the uTorrent employee.
“Feel free to delete this folder. You certainly won’t see any persistent auto-reinstalls of the software, it will be gone from your machine for good.”
This may not be the case however. Several users have said that the program does not uninstall completely via Add/Remove Programs, nor by removing the ProgramData\Epicscale folder.
Epic Scale is currently a cryptocurrency miner, but it has future plans to also contribute CPU cycles to other initiatives like Genome mapping.
It’s an ill-timed addition to uTorrent as bundled software however, as laptop manufacturer Lenovo was recently lambasted for its own user-unapproved software bundle of the Superfish program that left user data vulnerable to attack.
We asked BitTorrent Inc., the company that created uTorrent, for a comment on the matter. Here is the response:
"Like many software companies, we have partner offers in our install path and our policy is that they are strictly optional. We aim to work with partners that would appeal to our tech-forward user base. This is the case with Epic Scale, they are lite-coin based and charity focused. They have a great story and you should consider doing a post on what they are trying to achieve.
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."
As BitTorrent has suggested that the complaining users are mistaken, we asked BitTorrent whether it could do more to improve transparency in the uTorrent installation process. This was the response:
"As with any such offer from any software vendor there is a clear "Accept" and "Do Not Accept" button on this offer."
Giving BitTorrent the benefit of the doubt, there are three clear scenarios that could have caused this situation. Either the users are collectively mistaken; there is a lack of transparency in the software installation, leading to confusion amongst users; or there is a software fault whereby users are experiencing issues not otherwise intended by BitTorrent.
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