Mozilla Promises New Features in Firefox 65 to Prevent In-browser Cryptojackng

Web browser maker Mozilla has announced that it will further improve the security features of its flagship Firefox browser by introducing an array of new features. In a blog post dated Aug 30, 2018, Mozilla confirmed that one of these new additions would be specifically targeted at protecting users from in-browser cryptojacking attacks. Cryptojacking is the practice of manipulating a computer into secretly using its resources to mine cryptocurrencies for the perpetrators.

In-browser Cryptojacking is a Serious Threat

Initially, cryptojacking used to be mostly confined to the unsuspecting victims unwittingly installing a program that secretly mines cryptocurrencies. However, with time, in-browser cryptojacking techniques have gained traction among perpetrators.

In-browser cryptojacking doesn’t require any hidden malware in the victim’s computer. The perpetrators use a malicious JavaScript on their web pages, which covertly mine cryptocurrencies every time a user visits those pages. While these attacks do not appear to be as threatening as some of the other types of attacks — ransomware, for example — they do impact user-experience by stealthily carrying out unauthorized use of computing power in the target machines.

Worth noting here is that a recent study by cybersecurity firm Trend Micro revealed that cryptojacking attacks skyrocketed during the first half of 2018. The study claimed that the number of cryptojacking campaigns in H1 2018 surged nearly 150 percent year-on-year. It further reported 47 new cryptocurrency miner malware families. Trend Micro explained:

“This indicates cybercriminals are shifting away from the quick payout of ransomware in favor of the slower, behind-the-scenes approach of stealing computing power to mine digital currency.”

The report, however, didn’t specify any statistics exclusive to in-browser cryptojacking.

How Mozilla Plans on Curbing In-browser Cryptojacking

According to Mozilla, future versions of Firefox will be able to block malicious Scripts designed to “silently mine cryptocurrencies” on users’ devices. The company intends to offer a “clear set of controls” along with anti-tracking features to allow users more choices while sharing their data with websites.

“[Some] sites have deployed crypto mining 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.”

Meanwhile, Mozilla also promised to facilitate a more powerful “private web browsing” experience by stripping cooking and denying third-party trackers storage access on users’ devices. This new feature has already been added to Firefox Nightly.

The company also plans on conducting a shield study with a select group of beta users in September to test the impact of these new features on user-experience. All goes well; these features will be officially added to Firefox 65, scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2019.

How to Try out the new Features in Firefox Nightly

Users can try out some of the new security features in their Firefox Nightly browser. All they had to do is:

  • Click on the “Add Blocking” button next to “slow loading trackers” and “cross-site tracking through third-party cookies.”
  • Go to the “Content Blocking” panel in Preferences, and click on the checkbox next to “Slow-loading Trackers” to improve page load performance.
  • Select “Trackers (recommended)” next to “Third Party Cookies” in the Content Blocking panel

Users can deactivate these new features anytime by unchecking the checkboxes mentioned above.

Feature image by Nate Peryy

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