Google is not yet done with cryptocurrencies. After announcing it would ban all cryptocurrency-related ads from June, the internet giant has now turned its focus to Google Chrome extensions.
Google will start rejecting requests for extensions containing crypto-mining scripts starting today according to an official from the company. Existing ones will be removed from the Web Store towards the end of June.
Extensions are small customised software programs that are built for specific purposes. They enable users to get a more individualised experience from Chrome according to their preferences. Extensions often have a single purpose.
Until now, Google allowed mining scripts on the condition that it be the extension’s sole purpose and the users were made fully aware of their behaviour.
Cases of attackers hijacking computers for mining – known as cryptojacking – have been widely reported and Google is concerned that this could affect user experience.
The Rise of Malicious Extensions
Google says it has seen an exponential rise in the number of malicious extensions with mining scripts in the last few months.
Mining typically requires a lot of CPU resources and consumes significant amounts of power. For ordinary PCs, this can significantly affect their performance.
Mining from a single PC may not generate much. But harnessing the power of several computers spread across the world can yield significant profit for hackers.
“The extensions platform provides powerful capabilities that have enabled our developer community to build a vibrant catalogue of extensions that help users get the most out of Chrome,” Google product manager James Wagner wrote in a blog post.
“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,” he said.
The Allure of Mining Scripts
The prospect of making some quick buck simply by deploying a mining script to several computers can be too irresistible for some developers. Google usually rejects such obscure extensions but no doubt many of these fall through the cracks.
As much as 90 per cent of extensions that developers tried to upload did not meet the above conditions according to Google.
The decision to ban crypto-mining extensions altogether was taken because of the sheer number of extensions that did not comply with the rules.
Other cryptocurrency related extensions will not be affected as long as they do not mine.
The development is nevertheless expected to rub developers the wrong way. Most of them have been expressing this particular concern for several months on online forums.
The new ban now forms part of a sustained pressure on cryptocurrencies that has put the market on a downward trend in the last few months.
It follows a string of similar bans by other tech companies including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Facebook became the first major tech company to ban cryptocurrency related ads in January in what it said was a bid to protect its users. Google followed suit in March to protect its users from misleading promotional material.
Twitter shortly followed thereafter with bans on cryptocurrency related and ICO advertisements. Certain regulated cryptocurrency exchanges are however spared by the Twitter ban.