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I recently found a site - lifeinspace.org, which it exchanges our computing power for a space project to money. I got the payment, however, I am not sure about the legality of the money earned.

I know, in this world, we need to work to get money. This logic seems not true with this website - lifeinspace.org anymore or is this what distributed computing called? I am confused with this.

However, I researched well in internet - I could not find this organization lifeinspace.org anywhere except in 1-2 forums and I could not find the person Dr. Michael Carter who emails us at the first registration on this site, which makes me suspect that its a scam.

However, I got the payment (with transaction titled - custom banner purchase) , which makes me to suspect.

When I googled about the person who transferred me the amount, it has links/mentions to bitcoin.

Any ideas or possibility that a future scam would be possible with this payment? Is it safe to trust once after receiving a payment? or Do you have any ideas on any problems that might arise on receiving a payment?

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    The website makes me feel this is a scam. How exactly did you "exchange computing power"? Did you have to install some software on your computer and give it admin privileges? Oct 14 '19 at 13:57
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    I signed up to see what happens. Looks like the page is downloading a WebAssembly executable from lifeinspace.org/main.wasm, and then it pegs one CPU core. My guess is they are mining bitcoin on your machine Oct 14 '19 at 14:09
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    Bitcoin mining that's advertised as some space project is deceptive advertising. And they're probably paying you a pittance for your electricity.
    – RonJohn
    Oct 14 '19 at 15:23
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    Let's make one thing crystal clear: if it's a scam, I wouldn't have received payment, but I got it, how would that be possible?, as I told, it's confusing - this statement is false. MANY scams still involve people receiving money. Sometimes you even get to keep the money! That doesn't mean you're not getting ripped off, or roped into something illegal.
    – dwizum
    Oct 15 '19 at 13:50
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    @dwizum: Just for an example of why getting payment doesn't mean that it's not a scam, suppose the person can use your computer to "mine" $10 worth of bitcoins in a month, but it costs you an extra $12 in electricity. So the scammer can pay you $2 for the use of your computer, make $8 profit on the bitcoins, and leave you $10 in the hole. By paying you that small amount, he keeps you coming back month after month, unless & until you compare your power bills.
    – jamesqf
    Oct 15 '19 at 16:25
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The website is running a series of WebAssembly process. As a computer program, it can do anything.

e.g.

  • cryptocurrency mining
  • Use the computer as a proxy to conduct some "profitable task"
  • Use the computer to generate traffics to conduct click fraud
  • Turn the computer into a malware botnet, conduct illegal DDoS against some victim
  • doing some other "scientific study" on your computer.

Virus Bulletin article The dark side of WebAssembly shows a few potential risks. Good luck if nothing happens to your computer.

p/s: High impact computer exploits are discovered from time to time, granting other people rights to use your computer is never a good idea.

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    WebAssembly is not capable of doing all the things that an unsandboxed program can. Cryptocurrency mining, yes. Various complex mathematical/scientific simulations that generally fall into the realm of HPC, yes. Network connections, no. It's got less network capability than the Javascript launching it.
    – Ben Voigt
    Oct 14 '19 at 16:25
  • And (as RonJohn pointed out in the comments on the question) it's unlikely they are paying you more than the electricity cost of running the computer. Oct 14 '19 at 17:20
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    @GaneshSittampalam Ok, That may be true. However, I use free google cloud services - virtual machines - so no electricity.
    – sundar
    Oct 14 '19 at 18:46
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    @sundar I see. I guess while Google keep offering that, it really is free money (if there are no ToS issues). I assume that if lots of people do this, they will stop offering it. Oct 14 '19 at 19:21
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The other answers provide good descriptions of what may be happening with this particular scam. However, I wanted to add an additional answer to specifically address an incorrect (and dangerous) assumption you've made. In your question, you asked,

Is it safe to trust once after receiving a payment? or Do you have any ideas on any problems that might arise on receiving a payment?

And then, in a comment, you said,

if it's a scam, I wouldn't have received payment, but I got it, how would that be possible?

Based on these statements, it seems like you may be assuming that you receiving money means this business operation is legitimate. Many scam victims make the same assumption. People assume that if someone sends them money as part of some deal, then it must be real - because, why would a scammer throw money away? Time and time again, in scam questions on Money.SE, victims say "but I got money, so it must be real." Yet, it's clear that in pretty much all of these cases, it's not real - it's a scam. In other words, many scams do involve the victim actually receiving money.

Scammers like to exploit incorrect assumptions. Scams are built on exploiting incorrect assumptions. If a scammer knows you are liable to assume they are legitimate if "X" happens, then they will do X, as a way of appearing legitimate.

A victim receiving money as part of a scam usually plays out in one of three ways:

  • The scammer has some sort of back door method to get the money back. If they've sent it to you electronically or via check, they may be able to reverse or cancel the transaction. So, the money was never really yours!
  • A variation on the first bullet, the scammer may have scammed someone else, and may be sending you someone else's money. Scammers often have several scams linked together. They will use these adjacent scams to make your scam seem more legitimate. If they know you'll trust them because they've sent you money, and they've conned a different victim into giving them access to their bank account, they very well could be sending you money from that other victim's account. They get the benefit of looking more legitimate to you, and at no cost to them!
  • The scammer may be sending you real, legitimate money that you are able to keep, but they may be using social engineering to talk you into doing something risky or illegal on their behalf. The scammer is willing to pay real money for this! You are left responsible for your actions, at the end of the day.
  • The scammer is getting something from you of greater value than the money they gave you. For instance: processor cycles and electricity to run your computer! As explained elsewhere in answers and comments, most people are completely unaware of the power used and costs associated with running a computer. A scammer who is able to peg a CPU in your PC and then pay you a small amount of money is likely causing you to actually lose money!

With a victims who is ignorant to the costs of running a computer, and who has been lulled into complacency by the fact that they're receiving a check every month, scammers have free reign to make the deal work in their favor. If they send you $5, but your power bill went up by $8, you've been scammed! And who would notice that $8 jump in power consumption? Most people probably wouldn't.

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    +1 Great points. Another bullet point you might add: they could be paying you someone else's money. If they've got hacked credit-card / account details, or have social-engineered control of another person's bank account (cf. all the "Suger daddy wants my account password" questions), they may be sending you that person's money, and not be out-of-pocket at all.
    – TripeHound
    Oct 15 '19 at 15:06
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    Good point, I added another bullet to cover that possibility.
    – dwizum
    Oct 15 '19 at 15:55
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You won't be making much money with it.

High performance computing is today happening on NVIDIA graphics processing units (GPUs) programmed with NVIDIA CUDA, not on central processing units (CPUs). For scientific computing, double precision is a necessity, and consumer GPUs, even if NVIDIA, do not have enough double-precision units in them to have an acceptable level of performance.

This is especially true for cryptocurrency mining. CPU mining is not profitable. The additional energy used by your computer is far more than the money earned from the mined cryptocurrency. Even GPU mining is questionable today as application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) are appearing for exclusively mining cryptocurrency.

So, unless your computer has $10 000 NVIDIA Tesla card, I'm sorry to say your computer is entirely useless for any scientific computing. A powerful enough consumer GPU could be barely useful for cryptocurrency mining, but not for scientific computing due to lack of double-precision performance.

There used to be a time when you could get GTX Titan card for a low amount of money, that would have an acceptable double-precision performance. Those days are gone. These days, it's $10 000 NVIDIA Tesla card or nothing.

So, my advice: measure how much extra electricity your computer uses, and calculate how much it costs. Then measure how much money you get from the site. Compare these two. You may be surprised.

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  • Well, you are right about the profit/loss. Yeah, its a loss for me and its a scam. However, legal/illegal are different issues with scam, which I have mixed it up.
    – sundar
    Oct 15 '19 at 17:10
  • A minor point: BOINC, a distributed platform for scientific computing, has many GPU-enabled projects that do not require double-precision computing.
    – Thegs
    Oct 17 '19 at 21:32

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