Popular Web Browser Firefox to Start Blocking Cryptojacking Malware

  • Firefox is set to start blocking cryptocurrency mining malware
  • The moves comes as the browser attempts to "give users a voice" when browsing the web.

Firefox, one of the world’s most popular web browsers, is set to start blocking cryptojacking malware by default in order to improve user experience and enhance its performance, in an anti-tracking initiative.

Through a blog post, the organization behind the open-source browser revealed it plans on blocking trackers and other harmful practices to “give users a voice.” Some of its new features, per the blog post, are already available in its Firefox Nightly beta version.

The post, written by Mozilla’s vice president of product Nick Nguyen, details Firefox will mitigate deceptive practices that include fingerprinting users – a technique used to “invisibly identify users by their device properties” and cryptojacking. It reads:

Other sites have deployed cryptomining scripts that silently mine cryptocurrencies on the user’s device. Practices like these make the web a more hostile place to be. Future versions of Firefox will block these practices by default.

Cryptojacking essentially consists of websites adding scripts to their code that let them use their visitors’ CPU resources to mine cryptocurrencies. While some websites ask users to use their CPUs instead of showing them ads, most use them without letting users know.

These scripts often ruin browsing experiences and can physically damage devices if they overheat. Over the past few months cryptojacking became a popular trend, as McAfee labs revealed cryptojacking malware cases increased by 629% in the first quarter of this year.

A study commissioned by Citrix and executed by OnePoll earlier this month revealed that 59% of businesses in the UK have, at some point, been hit with cryptojacking attacks. The trend grew so much that the Uk National Cyber Security Center revealed it is seen as a “significant” threat.

Firefox’s features are set to be tested on its Firefox Nightly beta version, and will be rolled out to a stable Firefox release by default if the company’s approach “performs well.” Firefox is notably one of various browser developers blocking cryptojacking malware and addressing the cryptocurrency space.

As CryptoGlobe covered Google has recently removed cryptocurrency mining apps from its Play Store, months after removing extensions from Chrome’s web store. Despite the tech giant’s move, several crypto mining apps were still on its app store after the ban.

Opera, a browser that recently introduced a mobile browser for Android with a built-in crypto wallet, rolled out mining script protection for its mobile users in January of this year. The feature was already featured on its desktop version by default. Notably, Opera is set to add its built-in cryptocurrency wallet to its desktop browser.

The Brave browser, founded by JavaScript creator and Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich, also blocks trackers and cryptocurrency mining malware by default. Brave, as covered, recently surpassed 10 million downloads on Google’s Play store.

Ukrainian Railways Uncovers Bitcoin Mining Farm at Lviv Branch

On Friday (November 15), the state-owned Ukrainian Railways ("Укрзалізниця" in Ukrainian, which is pronounced "Ukrzaliznytsia") announced that it had found out that its Lviv branch was illegally operating a Bitcoin mining farm powered by the company's electricity (which is paid for by taxpayers in the country).

Ukrzaliznytsia's press release stated that its security department, along with law enforcement officials, had found a Bitcoin mining farm during an inspection of the premises of the Lviv branch; this "so-called farm" was being "organized by officials of the Lviv Railway unit." 

The person who filed the report on the alleged criminal activity was Oleg Nazaruk, who is the Director of the Department of Economic and Information Security of Ukrzaliznytsia JSC.

Nazaruk said:

During the inspection of the premises where the so-called farm was located, more than 100 pieces of computer equipment were identified that were generating bitcoins. The aforementioned equipment was connected to the Ukrzaliznytsia power grid. The estimated amount of losses since the beginning of the year is UAH 1 million.

The press release interestingly mentioned that, according to the laws of Ukraine, "the issue and circulation of cryptocurrency in the territory of Ukraine is prohibited."

The collected evidence has been passed to the Ternopil Police Department of the Main Directorate of the National Police in Ternopil Oblast.

According to a report by Kyiv Post, this is not the first time that state employees in Ukraine have been caught stealing electricity to mine cryptocurrencies. Back in August 2018, Ukraine's national security agency (SBU) arrested workers at a nuclear power plant (in the city of Yuzhnoukrainsk ) who were illegally mining crypto using electricity from the plant.

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