Software

Google killing Chrome extensions for mining cryptocurrency

Driven by a rise in Chrome extensions with hidden cryptomining capabilities, Google is putting a stop to all browser extensions designed to mine digital currency.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • Due to a rise in malicious cryptocurrency mining extensions, Google is killing all Chrome extensions that mine cryptocurrency. New ones cannot be submitted as of now, and current ones will be delisted from the Chrome Web Store in June.
  • Extensions that use blockchain technology but do not mine currency will still be allowed.

Citing the need to protect users from cryptojacking, Google has announced the end of Chrome extensions that mine cryptocurrency.

Cryptojacking, the act of secretly using a computer's CPU to mine cryptocurrency like Bitcoin or Monero without the user's knowledge or consent, has been on the rise due to the popularity of cryptocurrency with cyber criminals.

The software used to cryptojack can have serious repercussions for the victim computer. Performance drops due to continued high CPU load, which can ultimately result in heat damage or system failure.

Google Extensions Platform Project Manager James Wagner said that cryptojacking Chrome extensions masquerading as other tools in the Chrome Web Store have been on the rise. Unfortunately for those who use legitimate cryptocurrency mining extensions, those bad actors have ruined things for everyone.

Which Chrome extensions are affected, and which are not?

Up until now, Google has allowed Chrome extensions that mine cryptocurrency as long as the user is informed and the extension's only purpose is to mine cryptocurrency. That only accounts for 10% of Chrome extensions that mine cryptocurrency, however. The other 90% are doing it behind the scenes, not informing users, or both.

Google said it has rejected many of the 90% of guilty extensions, and beginning now it is no longer accepting new Chrome extensions that mine cryptocurrency.

The 10% of legitimate extensions aren't long for the world either: They'll be delisted from the Chrome web store starting in late June.

SEE: Quick glossary: Blockchain (Tech Pro Research)

In short, if mining cryptocurrency is any part of a Chrome extension you use or develop it's game over.

Chrome extensions that use blockchain technology for other purposes, like cryptocurrency wallets, are unaffected.

Mining with Chrome: Still not impossible

Just because an extension is removed from the official Chrome Web Store doesn't mean you can't install and use it—you just have to perform a few steps to load Chrome extensions manually.

By navigating to chrome://extensions/ you can see all the extensions you have installed. Look for the Developer Mode toggle switch on the upper right of your browser window and toggle it to on—you'll know it is when you see options to Load Unpacked, Pack Extension, and Update below the search bar.

Once you do that you can load unpacked extensions using the option below the search bar, but you'll need a CRX (Chrome extension file format) extraction app in order to unpack the extension, which will need to be repacked as a ZIP file.

Extract the ZIP to a folder, then click on Load Unpacked in the Chrome extensions window, find the folder you unzipped, select it, and install.

Note: Perform these steps at your own risk. TechRepublic does not accept responsibility from any damage malicious extensions may inflict on your computer.

Also see

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Image: iStock/bodnarchuk

About Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

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