Someone defeated the anti-crypto-coin-mining protection for Nvidia's 'gamers only' RTX 3060 ... It was Nvidia

Dun, dun, duh


Cryptocurrency miners found a way to sidestep Nvidia's anti-mining protections for its RTX 3060 graphics card, and craft coins to their hearts' content.

A day before its 3060 went on sale, Nvidia announced the GPU would require a GeForce driver designed to detect whether the hardware was running proof-of-work algorithms used to mine Ethereum. If this code was observed, the driver would force the chipset to slash its mining efficiency, or hash rate, crippling its ability to produce digital currency.

It was hoped that these measures would deter crypto-miners from snapping up all of these relatively cheap cards at launch, and leave a few more for gamers. It was a little bit obvious that miners would just buy the RTX 3060s anyway in hope that the driver-level protection would be defeated eventually.

mining

Nvidia cripples Ethereum mining on GeForce RTX 3060 to deter crypto bods from nabbing all the kit at launch

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And not only did the miners get their hands on the gear, they discovered a way, in some circumstances, to subvert the driver to successfully mine Ethereum. The trick is surprisingly trivial: use another driver. Nvidia recently released a technology preview driver, compatible with the RTX 3060, that included CUDA support for the latest Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL 2), allowing applications to tap into the graphics processor to accelerate things like machine-learning algorithms.

This driver also doesn't impose the Ethereum hashing limitations, and so switching to this software evades Nvidia's crackdown, depending on how you've set up your rig. “A developer driver inadvertently included code used for internal development which removes the hash rate limiter on RTX 3060 in some configurations,” an Nvidia spokesperson confirmed to The Register on Tuesday. “The driver has been removed.”

Here’s a screenshot of a user successfully repurposing a 3060 GPU to mine Ethereum:

This workaround-of-sorts is limited to single cards connected to a monitor, according to Crypto Mining Blog. The download link for the driver has since been removed from Nvidia’s website. The forum page discussing the software has also been taken offline.

Removing the official download to driver 470.05 probably isn’t enough to stop miners crafting Ethereum, though. Copies of the software continue to circulate in pirating hangouts. Nvidia declined to comment further.

The GPU giant has come under fire from frustrated fans unable to buy its latest RTX cards. The devices typically sell out minutes after launch; there’s high demand, and not enough stock. Gamers are also elbowed out of the way by bots and scalpers looking to make a profit reselling the kit online.

Nvidia partly blamed digital currency miners snapping up GPUs, leaving little left for gamers. At the time of the RTX 3060 launch, Nv also unveiled a brand of forthcoming graphics processors, named the CMP HX series, in an attempt to distract and lure away cryptominers from the GeForce card; these CMP parts can’t connect to display monitors, making them unsuitable for desktop gaming. They also have custom cooling systems and operate at lower peak core voltages and frequencies to mine efficiently.

Yet, we're still in the middle of a global semiconductor shortage, so no matter how Nvidia carves up or repackages its brands, people will struggle to get their components because the factories can't keep up with demand.

And thus it's argued that the CMP HX brand is actually a terrible deal for gamers, rather than a godsend, because it means miners will get some of the silicon that's in such short supply just for mining and then throw the boards away after they are no longer viable for hashing as the devices can't be resold for gaming. ®

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