In an effort to partially mitigate the market chaos that has come from the cryptocurrency mining boom over the last 6 months, last month NVIDIA very publicly introduced a mining throttling mechanism for its then-new GeForce RTX 3060 cards. By throttling the performance of Ethereum mining on these cards to half their native rate, it would ideally keep miners from immediately snapping up any (and every) RTX 3060 card in search for a profit, leaving more available for NVIDIA’s gaming customers. Essentially a software security/DRM system, the success of NVIDIA’s effort would hinge largely on ensuring the underlying throttling mechanism remain undefeated – an effort that has significantly fumbled after NVIDIA accidentally released a driver without the complete throttling code.

As part of the development of their upcoming Release 470 driver branch, last week NVIDIA released driver 470.05 to developers and Windows Insiders. Among other things, this development driver enabled CUDA support on the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 (WSL2) for the first time. Unfortunately, this driver didn’t include the complete throttling code for Ethereum, and as a result it’s possible to use the driver to mine the cryptocoin on RTX 3060 cards at their full (native) rate.

The news was initially broken by HardwareLuxx and ComputerBase, who had the driver and were able to confirm that they were no longer getting throttled with the new driver. NVIDIA in turn has since confirmed the matter as well, sending a statement out to various members of the press that “A developer driver inadvertently included code used for internal development which removes the hash rate limiter on RTX 3060 in some configurations. The driver has been removed.”

Unfortunately, this is a prime, real-world example of how software security (and DRM-like systems) are only as strong as their weakest link – in this case NVIDIA’s driver team. NVIDIA security mechanisms rely on signature checks for the BIOS and drivers to prevent bypassing the throttling mechanism, but since this is a signed, legitimate NVIDIA driver to begin with, it is readily accepted by the card. And since the driver doesn’t have a timebomb on it, the genie is out of the bottle, as it were. Windows cryptominers should be able to use the driver with RTX 3060 cards indefinitely, and since the driver was widely released there’s no possibility to preventing its re-distribution.

The silver(ish) lining to this otherwise bad news is that it could have been even worse for NVIDIA. This driver was for Windows and not for Linux, with the latter being the preferred platform for industrial miners. Furthermore there are apparently other mining-checks in the driver that do still work (e.g. checking the PCIe link width), so NVIDIA’s anti-Ethereum throttle for the RTX 3060 is not completely broken. It has, however, had a massive chunk taken out of it with this driver release.

All of which means that the ongoing chip crunch has just become all that more severe for gamers and other video card buyers. With an unthrottled RTX 3060 able to pull in around $5/day in profit, the card risks being a reasonably attractive offering for miners looking to make a quick buck.

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  • Oxford Guy - Wednesday, March 17, 2021 - link

    One of the plethora of benefits for monopolists is that consumer goodwill is far less important to their bottom line.

    AMD and Nvidia can burn us again and again and we have no choice but to walk away from gaming or accept their bad terms.

    The other choice, of course, is to stop being passive captives and fund a 3rd GPU company. And, no, I don't mean a dumpster fire like Intel.
    Reply
  • edzieba - Wednesday, March 17, 2021 - link

    "both AMD and nVidia have 100% control over selling their GPUs"

    That's not how it works. AMD & Nvidia sell GPU dies to manufacturers. Manufacturers build those into cards, and sell the cards to distributes. Distributers sell the cards to retailers. Retailers sell the cards to the public. If you have big pockets (in order to place a big order), you may be able to convince a distributer to sell to your directly. If you're REALLY big ('We're Dell, we want to buy 5 million cards shipped x at a time over y years'), you may be able to talk to the manufacturer directly.

    'Home' miners are buying from retailers. 'Industry' miners are mostly mining on ASICs, but if they've branched out into Etherium - for the brief period in the next year or so while that is still viable before PoW is sunset - they may be able to place batch orders with distributors.
    Reply
  • Silver5urfer - Wednesday, March 17, 2021 - link

    Yep you are correct not think. Nvidia and AMD want profits, they even disclosed how Ngreedia got a lump of cash from the mining boom and GPU shortage. Miners simply buy a Pallet load, that's no brainer. They will buy from all e-tailers, big logistic corporations and every single one is being profited from this mining craze.

    PC HW customers ofc will be at loss because they are a simple nobody in this whole world of corporations wanting for profit. The only limiter that Nvidia should do is to ramp up the production and LIMIT the sale of GPUs. And we know both of them are not feasible to them and even if they can they won't limit the sale of GPUs, they cannot simply even dictate not to sell the pallet load to the miners. Damn it how can people be so fcking naive as if this bs miner limit blocks any of the mining craze...

    On top on the other news, Samsung is saying Note this year won't make it because chip shortage haha LOL, and people want Nvidia GPUs on the same Samsung Fab, even TSMC Ryzen 5000 is limited supply, AMD's RDNA2 6000 RX is also having insane supply shortage, All these have many reasons - more customers wfh, more people buying new hw incl consoles, supply and demand shortage, mining craze for AMD GPUs (which are not castrated or not doesn't matter).
    Reply
  • Silver5urfer - Wednesday, March 17, 2021 - link

    I forgot to mention, this whole Mining limiting business is whack. It's bad move from Nvidia, segregating GPUs which has absolutely ZERO effect in making PC HW buyers see more stock. If they want to do it, they should castrate it fully, why will they do that when it makes them billions ? Dumb gamers are eating it up, as if Ngreedia cares for them. Pathetic. Reply
  • hansip87 - Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - link

    It should've been multi gpu limiter rather than hash rate limiter. See, if gamer wants to mine, they are welcomed. It's after all a service to the community. But gouging a wholeload of GPU for mining farm is just unethical. I mean everyone could join the mining and operate one in their own homes (which is the decentralized concept of cryptocurrency) but no.. Farmers bought a dozen if not hundreds of GPU that was meant for gamers and multiplies wealth more and more. That's just disgusting. Reply
  • JamesAnthony - Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - link

    What is more profitable?

    Sell everything you can possibly produce to folks that will pay whatever you ask, in big bulk quantities and don't need any fancy cosmetic stuff, most likely pay by direct bank transfers and probably play by big boy rules where you don't get warranties, you just get an agreement that initial failure rate will not exceed xxx and if it does then next run you get a bigger allowance.

    Or have to spend more to add all kinds of stuff to make them "fancy" for "gamers" who then want to buy one or two at a time and then you have to worry about returns and customer service and payment fraud and all that stuff?

    Then if you want to talk to the "virtuous gamers" or whatever they like to style themselves as, the economics are also interesting.
    Do you want to pay a lower price for a card that will devalue quickly and do nothing but play your games.
    Or do you want to pay a higher price for a card that despite the higher price, can pay for itself in a year by doing stuff in the background while you are not gaming, and then have a higher resale value when you want to upgrade? Or be able to continue to make you money in your spare system after you upgrade your primary system to a newer card?
    Being able to mine with your card is actually a better deal long term rather than getting a crippled card for cheap.
    Reply
  • webdoctors - Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - link

    You might be confused, Nvidia and AMD don't make many video cards themselves. I think its mostly Sapphire, MSI, ASUS etc. that buy the chip from Nvidia, do the AIB and sell it at BestBuy. So miners would be doing bank transfers to ASUS for lets say MSRP+20% markup and ASUS or Newegg would pocket the cash.

    AMD and Nvidia aren't making any extra money out of this, as all they have are chips which are useless to miners until they get put on a PCB with the DRAM.
    Reply
  • ballsystemlord - Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - link

    Actually, I have heard of Nvidia getting kickbacks for inflated pricing last time we had a GPU shortage. At least at the time, it was confirmed that AMD was NOT getting a kickback. Reply
  • ballsystemlord - Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - link

    In the AT article about the limit being placed in the driver several people spoke up and said that $$$$ from miners would be used to break or bypass the drivers lockout. The most popular way for this to be accomplished was a driver rewrite from scratch. It seems that that $$$$ has worked in a manner that was not expected. Reply
  • DejayC - Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - link

    First of all, the original mining limitation did nothing to help with the demand for the 3060 which sold out in minutes. Second, why aren’t gamers more mad about an idol purposely gimping their hardware? It’s not like anyone games 24/7, and any time your GPU isn’t gaming you might as well be using to to generate free money on the side. I have my gtx 1080 ti mining away 22 hours a day when I’m at work and asleep. I haven’t turned on my heater in weeks and I have over 100 dollars in Ethereum now. Gamers have every right to use their hardware as they see fit. I hope Nvidia gives up on this stupid tactic and just focuses on manufacturing more cards, meanwhile if you are a gamer in need of an upgrade, buy a GTX 10-series card to hold you over until the crypto market busts again (and it will bust eventually), and buy a cheap used 30-series cars for half price on EBay. Reply

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