If you’re an internet user of a certain age, you might remember the start of the SETI@Home project – which is still going strong and coming up for its 19th birthday later this month – whereby internet-connected home-users could help in the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life. By using a little of your machine’s spare processing power, a free download analyses the huge quantity of radio telescope data, and helps in the quest to make contact with ET more quickly. (If you’re interested in joining SETI@Home, the link can be found here.)

Now, someone else is looking to borrow your computer’s spare capacity, this time to raise money for charity. UNICEF’s latest fundraising campaign efforts in Australia are focussed on asking people who have an appropriate set-up to mine cryptocurrency on their behalf. The charity invites potential donors to visit a website called The Hopepage (www.thehopepage.org). During their visit, their web browser will use spare processing power to solve the algorithms that generate cryptocurrency (in this case, Monero). Visitors are able to choose how much power they want to allocate to the task. Quite simply, the longer the visitor stays on the page, the more algorithms get solved, and the more cryptocurrency is generated. This is then automatically donated to UNICEF’s Australian branch, and turned into currency. Children benefit through supplies like safe drinking water, food, and medicine, including vaccines. Visitors are invited to set Hopepage as their homepage, so that a little mining power is sent the charity’s way every day.

The Australian director of fundraising, Jennifer Tierney, explained that UNICEF is using “new emerging technologies to raise awareness about current humanitarian crises and raise funds to support children caught up in them.” All of the funds mined in this way will support the charity’s efforts, and their co-ordinated response to Myanmar’s Rohingya refugee crises.

At present, there are just over 12,350 people donating their processing power in this way, with others joining them all the time, and there’s no doubt that using web browsers to mine cryptocurrency is continuing to gain traction as a way to generate income not just for enthusiasts, but to raise funds in this way.

However, it’s not without issues, and the whiff of controversy that follows many crypto-related stories isn’t far behind this either. The Pirate Bay isn’t known for being squeaky-clean, but attracted extra criticism from regular users for the covert addition of software for mining cryptocurrency. It has now removed this, but they’re not the only ones on the shady side of the law. Rogue code has also been found on the website of the Students Loans Company, various NHS services sites, and – hilariously – on the site of the UK’s data protection watchdog.

The technology to mine cryptocurrency in this way is still new, let alone its use to fundraise for charitable or other means, so checking facts and safety is always wise. However, if you have processing power to spare, and five minutes to visit The Hopepage, please consider helping cryptocurrency help those in need.