UNICEF tries the “mine cryptos for charity” trick, makes repeated false claims along the way

Oh, UNICEF, no:

UNICEF has launched a new fund-raising project in the same vein as SETI@Home and Einstein@home, but with a cryptocurrency spin. In an effort to raise money for the children in war-torn Syria, the organization is asking gamers, eSports fans and anybody with powerful graphics cards in their computers for help in mining Ethereum. It’s calling the new project “Game Chaingers,” and joining it is as easy as going to its website, giving it a few details about your system so it can configure the mining software and installing that software to your PC.

They’re trying the same terrible idea that Bail Bloc tried to pump Monero with. This time it’s for refugees in Syria, and they want you to mine Ethereum.

If you’re wondering why this sort of thing is a terrible idea, my Bail Bloc article goes into some detail. In short:

  • burning coal for charity is bad;
  • you’re trashing your system;
  • in pretty much every case you could just donate the money you’d be spending on electricity and hardware and they’d get more.

Ethereum is also much less profitable than many altcoins, which is why NiceHash and its clones exist to maximise your take from mining on the GPU.


Photo by Hans at Pixabay, CC-0


The unnamed UNICEF spokesperson reassures Engadget about this plan to burn coal and create more e-waste for charity:

When we asked the UN organization for children’s rights whether running the program will cause your PC to consume more electricity than usual, a spokesperson told us that it won’t. Your computer will still use the the same amount of electricity that it usually does, since it’s not exactly the same as mining for bitcoins on your own. UNICEF will only borrow part of your processing power and only asks “for a punctual and brief participation.” So, if the only thing keeping you from installing the software is its energy use and/or environmental impact, then it sounds like you’ve got nothing to worry about.

This claim is completely incorrect — modern CPUs and GPUs don’t work like this at all. Every device made in the last decade or so goes into a power-saving state whenever it can, within microseconds. So if you do lots of heavy calculation, you’ll use lots of power — there’s no unused pool of computing power that would go to waste if you didn’t.

Either the spokesperson doesn’t know enough about their own project to be put forward as a spokesperson, or they’re knowingly contradicting their own FAQ:

Do I consume more electricity by mining?

No more than playing a video game! Miner can cost a lot of electricity, as in the case of Bitcoin, but as part of the operation we only ask for a punctual and brief participation. To give an idea: today, mining for 24 hours non-stop ETH with a GTX 970 card consumption is then 160watts (= 0.16 kW). The kW / h in France is about 0.14e the Kw / h the cost is about 0.54 euros for 24 hours.

This is also false — continuous number-crunching uses much more power than playing a video game, as this later question admits:

The fan of my computer goes crazy. What do I do ? (Can it ruin my computer?)

The mining speed of a cryptocurrency can be quite intense. The software simply uses the power potential of your graphics card, do not panic it will not damage your hardware.

This again is false — gamer cards are not built for 24/7 number-crunching, and this sort of thing can in fact burn out cards — and frequently voids warranties. And nobody wants a burnt-out mining card second-hand. (Love seeing listings that say “not used for mining,” and also say what hash rate you’ll get.)

Here’s an Ethereum Mining Calculator. Figure in what replacing your video card costs as well. Gamers, of all people, realise that cryptocurrency mining is precisely why video cards cost so much right now.

The likely culprit is Chris Fabian at UNICEF’s Innovation Fund, who seems to have got the crypto bug a while ago and has been actively pushing spending UN money on this stuff.

UNICEF tried creating its own altcoin, Unicoin, in 2015, but it went nowhere (and has nothing to do with the present Unicoin, an ERC-20 token on Ethereum). Fabian essayed trying again in 2017 with an ICO, which also failed to eventuate.

UNICEF’s recommended mining software, in this case Claymore, is detected as malware by most antiviruses — and if you switch off your antivirus, Claymore is one of the mining programs targeted by miner-altering malware.

The author of Claymore takes a share of everything mined with it:

current developer fee is 2.5%, miner mines 39 rounds for you and 1 round for developer. If you use encrypted connection (“ssl://”) the developer fee is 2%.

So UNICEF’s claim that all proceeds from mining go to the cause is … false.

They also picked the day of a massive cryptocurrency crash for their launch — Ethereum has gone from $1200 to $800 so far today, in tandem with Bitcoin.

To donate directly to the cause, go here. It’s also much easier and less risky than setting up Claymore safely.

Update: This isn’t from Chris Fabian’s team:



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One Comment on “UNICEF tries the “mine cryptos for charity” trick, makes repeated false claims along the way”

  1. Cheers to Andrew Lih for the tip, and Scott Swan on Twitter for research assistance. Two and three-quarter hours from tip to post!

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