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Internet browser, Opera is adding a cryptocurrency mining safety feature on its mobile version. The browser already has the protection built into its desktop version and announced it would be adding the same protection to its mobile version. In a press release from the company, they explained: "The new anti-cryptocurrency mining feature is activated by default when you enable the ad blocker on Opera Mini (iOS and Android) or Opera for Android. The ad blocker can be enabled by going to 'settings', and it will automatically detect and stop the mining scripts written into the code of a webpage."
Cryptojacking on the rise
Cryptocurrency miners embedded in websites is becoming a bigger problem for smartphone users who may inadvertently open a site that will "crypto jack" their browsers. Opera claims that more than a billion devices worldwide are slowed by the sneaky use of websites they estimate that more than 3 million websites are embedded cryptocurrency miners. “When you browse the web, there are no visual clues that your device is exposed to mining,” says Jan Standal, VP Product Marketing at Opera “A single webpage you visit can take up to 4.5 hours of your battery time if you keep the tab open. This often turns out to be just the battery time you needed to use a ride-hailing app or check the map to get home”.
Aside from slowing down the phone’s usage, cryptocurrency miners can overload smartphones' CPUs, causing them to overheat and cause long-term damage. A ZDNet article describes how one user whose CPU was hijacked to mine for Monero resulted the phone's battery becoming so overheated, it swelled up and damaged the phone's casing.
Pirate Bay amongst crypto-hacking sites
As the value of major cryptocurrencies surged last year the demand for mining the coins also rose. Cryptocurrency mining involves solving complex math problems to add blockchain to the currency’s ledger. The process requires a large amount of computer power and energy. One method of accumulating this computer power is to use the combined power of many computers by injecting malicious scripts into customised web pages. Some are so sophisticated you may not even realize you are being used to generate profit for a stranger.
The idea of crypto-hacking took off late last year when Coinhive released a script that could mine for Monero when a web page loaded. The torrent site, Pirate Bay used the script as part of a test to cut down on ads within the site. They instead incorporated the script into their page as a way to generate funds to allow them to keep operating. While there is potential for crypto-jacking to be used in a relatively harmless manner and could also be an easy and efficient way for charities or not-for-profits to raise money, there are huge numbers of malicious minded groups and individuals running similar scripts with bad intent.
Google-backed search engine
Opera began as a side project for Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor. It became its own company and since then has been through many changes including an iteration as trialware. Opera has always had a focus on mobile development, starting its project to pour its platform for mobile in 1998. Opera’s default search engine is Google but differentiates itself from their own browser product Chrome by offering more stringent security and ad-blocking features.