James Wagner, Extensions Platform Product Manager of Google, took to the behemoth’s Chromium Blog on Monday in a post titled, Protecting Users from Extension Cryptojacking. “Starting today,” Mr. Wagner explained, “Chrome Web Store will no longer accept extensions that mine cryptocurrency. Existing extensions that mine cryptocurrency will be delisted from the Chrome Web Store in late June. Extensions with blockchain-related purposes other than mining will continue to be permitted in the Web Store.”
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Google Moves Against Cryptojacking
“Over the past few months,” Mr. Wagner began, “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. These mining scripts often consume significant CPU resources, and can severely impact system performance and power consumption.”
The chart above shows a recent example of CPU overutilization from hidden coin mining in an extension.
Cryptojacking has shown up in various places, from Pirate Bay to Salon, and as a phenomenon is only a few months old. Heck, even Elon Musk’s projects have been “infiltrated,” as “Tesla’s Kubernetes console (a system for containerized apps that was originally designed by Google) which was not password protected” was hit by cryptojacking. As these pages examined just a short while ago, “the extent of the problem has been vastly overstated. Smart criminals aren’t covertly crypto mining in-browser, not because they’re incapable of doing so, but because even at scale it simply isn’t profitable.”
True as that might be, it evidently has become an annoyance for enough users that Google has taken notice. “Until now, Chrome Web Store policy has permitted cryptocurrency mining in extensions as long as it is the extension’s single purpose,” Mr. Wagner detailed, “and the user is adequately informed about the mining behavior. Unfortunately, approximately 90% of all extensions with mining scripts that developers have attempted to upload to Chrome Web Store have failed to comply with these policies, and have been either rejected or removed from the store.”
Of course it was only two weeks ago, the largest search engine on the planet announced formally it will restrict advertisement of “Cryptocurrencies and related content (including but not limited to initial coin offerings, cryptocurrency exchanges, cryptocurrency wallets, and cryptocurrency trading advice),” including aggregators and affiliates regarding “cryptocurrencies and related content.”
Mr. Wagner ends by reminding how the “extensions platform provides powerful capabilities that have enabled our developer community to build a vibrant catalog of extensions that help users get the most out of Chrome. Unfortunately, these same capabilities have attracted malicious software developers who attempt to abuse the platform at the expense of users. This policy is another step forward in ensuring that Chrome users can enjoy the benefits of extensions without exposing themselves to hidden risks.”
Have you ever been cryptojacked? Let us know in the comments!
Images via Pixabay, Google.
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