In brief: Microsoft has updated its licensing agreements to ban cryptomining from its online services. Any customers wishing to continue mining crypto on a Microsoft-hosted service will first need written permission from the company, but this will only be considered for "Testing and Research for security detections."
As reported by The Register, Microsoft updated its Universal License Terms for Online Services for its range of Azure Services and Dynamic 365 Services to prohibit cryptomining without the company's prior approval. It covers any "Microsoft-hosted service to which Customer subscribes under a Microsoft volume licensing agreement." The updated document is mostly related to Azure and came into effect on December 1.
The Acceptable Use Policy section states: "Neither Customer, nor those that access an Online Service through Customer, may use an Online Service: to mine cryptocurrency without Microsoft's prior written approval."
Microsoft seems to have slipped much of the update under the radar. But in a Partner Community post yesterday, Microsoft Channel Sales Lead Daniil Biktimirov wrote that the updated policy was to explicitly prohibit mining for cryptocurrencies across all Microsoft Online Services.
The Redmond giant told The Register it introduced the change because cryptocurrency mining can disrupt or impair its online services. It added that users could often be linked to cyber fraud and abuse attacks such as unauthorized access to and use of customer resources.
Microsoft is joining Google Cloud in requiring users to attain written permission before cryptomining, as does Digital Ocean. Oracle and OVH don't allow it at all, while Amazon Web Services does not allow it in its free tier.
The crypto industry is in a crisis right now. Governments are rushing to introduce tighter regulation following the implosion of crypto exchange FTX, which recently resulted in Sam Bankman-Fried's arrest on fraud and money laundering charges. We've also heard of miners unable to repay millions in loans being forced to hand over their mining rigs that had been used as collateral. With the prices of digital assets crashing, cryptomining isn't the lucrative or secure pastime it once was, all of which could have played a part in Microsoft's decision, beyond it being only about the safety of customers and its online services.