Is Google planning to implement stricter rules on cryptojacking scripts?
Not everyone knows how to mine cryptocurrencies or even trade in them. But chances are that some of those PCs out there have been mining these digital coins without their owners even knowing about it. The good news is that Google finally took notice and is planning a crackdown on these activities by banning cryptocurrency mining extensions on Chrome.
With prices of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other digital coins skyrocketed last year, cryptocurrency was launched into the limelight and became known globally. These days, almost everyone has a rough idea of what a currency is, thanks to the success stories of investors who were able to multiply their fortunes almost overnight.
Along with the rising popularity of these digital currencies, people also became aware that while they are called coins, they are actually not minted by any central bank but there mined. While the technical details might be too much to handle for the regular Joe, everyone knows that mining these high tech currencies involves some computers, a connection to the net and some exotic sounding thing called blockchain technology.
But what not everyone knows is that is that some tech-savvy opportunists having been taking advantage of most internet users’ general tendency to be unmindful of what specific extensions might have been activated by their browser of choice. For this reason, cryptocurrency mining extensions have been doing all the mining work for these cybercriminals without the knowledge of internet users.
For instance, a Google Chrome extension called Archive Poster was found to be secretly mining the Monero digital currency while doing what it was supposed to do, which is helping users manage Tumblr posts. The scary part is that the extension is quite popular with around 105,000 users. It is not known just how many of those computers of those users were used for mining cryptocurrencies without their owners’ knowledge, a process known as cryptojacking, by the time the app’s activities were uncovered last December.
Similarly, an Android app has been redirecting unsuspecting users to solve a CAPTCHA verification, the usual process to filter out bots from human traffic. Unfortunately, it was discovered last January this year that once users click on the continue option of the CAPTCHA, it will trigger the browser to start mining.
Of course, Google’s decision to crack down on cryptojacking by banning certain mining scripts does not mean that the search engine giant is against cryptocurrency mining extensions in general. What the company wants to go after are those dishonest extensions which declare one type of function but are secretly mining behind the user’s back.
“Over the past few months, there has been a rise in malicious extensions that appear to provide useful functionality on the surface, while embedding hidden cryptocurrency mining scripts that run in the background without the user’s consent,” James Wagner, Extensions Platform Product Manager, explained in a post. “These mining scripts often consume significant CPU resources and can severely impact system performance and power consumption.”