Microsoft Updates Edge Browser to Protect Against Illicit Crypto Miners

Microsoft explained it added the feature after users complained that when downloading free software from the internet, they often had apps “with a poor reputation” being installed at the same time.

With malicious cryptocurrency miners having proliferated over the internet in the last two years, Microsoft has moved to protect users of its Edge web browser from the effects of the malicious software.

In a blog post on Thursday, the tech giant said it had enabled a feature that will spot and prevent the download of “potentially unwanted applications” (PUAs) such as cryptojackers or adware.

Cryptojackers utilize code hidden on websites or downloaded onto users’ devices to harness computer processing power to mine cryptocurrencies.

The new feature – available in Edge versions from 80.0.338.0 on – is off by default, but can be switched on in the Privacy and Services settings panel.

As Microsoft said, PUAs like miners can slow a user’s computer. They can also lead to excessive fan noise and overheating while they steal victim’s electricity to carry out mining tasks in the background.

While users complained of free software sites being laden with cryptojackers, they can find their way into apparently legitimate sources too. A year ago, eight Windows apps on the Microsoft Store were discovered by Symantec to be hosting a version of Coinhive, a commonly deployed script for mining the monero (XMR) cryptocurrency. The apps were removed from the site after Microsoft was alerted.

A report from Skybox Security in 2018 said crypto mining malware had overtaken ransomware as the cybercriminal’s weapon of choice. The firm’s figures suggested cryptojacking comprised 32 percent of all cyberattacks at the time.

Referring to its new miner blocking feature, Microsoft said: “Our goal is to assist users in getting the apps they want, while empowering them to maintain control over their devices and experiences.”

Miner Perspectives on Bitcoin Halving 2020, Part 1 of a New Podcast Series

Hosted by CoinDesk Research Analyst Christine Kim, the first episode of the Bitcoin Halving 2020 podcast series is about the impact of bitcoin’s third halving on the concentration of miners in China.

In about 40 days, the world’s first and largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, bitcoin (BTC), will undergo a pre-programmed block reward reduction known as the halving.

Roughly every four years, bitcoin’s block subsidy rewards are cut by 50 percent to prevent currency inflation. Recurring halving events also ensure that total supply over time is capped at 21 million coins. It will take an estimated 64 halving events before the last bitcoin is mined. So far, there have only been two.

To commemorate bitcoin’s third halving, CoinDesk Research is launching today a new weekly podcast series about the bitcoin mining industry. Each episode features discussions with leading experts in bitcoin mining hardware, operations and pool management on a variety of topics related to block subsidy reward reductions and their impact on the crypto markets.

Hosted by CoinDesk Research Analyst Christine Kim, the first episode of the Bitcoin Halving 2020 podcast series is about the impact of bitcoin’s third halving on the concentration of miners in China.

Discussing and debating this topic is Ethan Vera, head of finance at one of North America’s largest cryptocurrency mining pools Luxor Technologies. Also joining Kim and Vera on the show is Wolfie Zhao, a veteran member of the CoinDesk editorial team who specializes in news coverage on the Chinese bitcoin mining industry.

For more information about the bitcoin halving, CoinDesk Research has recently published a 30-page explainer report on these events that features additional commentary from Vera and other mining industry experts. The report is free to download on the CoinDesk website.

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