uBlock Origin Developers Take Steps to Block Cryptocurrency Mining Scripts

It has become rather evident that embedding cryptocurrency mining scripts in web pages can be a very lucrative business. The Pirate Bay recently experimented with such a script to potentially replace its ad revenue model. However, this technology can also be used for far more nefarious purposes. uBlock Origin, one of the world’s most famous ad blockers, has built in a feature that blocks these mining scripts altogether.

Web-based Cryptocurrency Mining Scripts are odd

The concept of mining cryptocurrency using a web browser makes very little sense to the average person. It only gets more confusing when one realizes he or she is not mining for their own benefit, but is allowing third parties to use their computer resources for this purpose. Embedding JavaScript code in a website to mine cryptocurrencies using other people’s computers is a terrible idea.

Granted, the recent trial by The Pirate Bay shows how this method can be used for legitimate reasons. A lot of websites – regardless of content – struggle to monetize their platforms adequately. Moreover, traditional advertising models are on their way out. Banner advertising and even Google Adsense are not as profitable as they could or should be. This is mainly due to the emergence of ad blockers which allow people to enjoy content without giving something back.

However, these new cryptocurrency mining scripts embedded in websites are also a big cause for concern. Using other people’s computer resources to generate money on another’s behalf without consent is a very dangerous concept. It is only normal that most people would take ample precautions to block these scripts without having to go through a big ordeal to do so. As it turns out, most ad blockers do the job just fine. uBlock Origin is one of the best ad blockers for this purpose.

A discussion was opened on the uBlock Origin Github repo a few days ago that revolved around blocking these cryptocurrency mining scripts. As it turns out, these scripts are a bit more complex than originally assumed, and multiple variables must be blocked accordingly. The fact that users cannot opt out of the mining feature has created a lot of bad blood, for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, this may negatively affect the public’s perception of Bitcoin and altcoins.

It is good to see popular ad blockers such as uBlock Origin embed features which effectively block cryptocurrency mining scripts. Although it is understandable that content creators are exploring new revenue possibilities, visitors should always be given a choice to opt out in the first place. If that option is not there, no one should be surprised to see the vast majority of users simply block these efforts right away. It appears the Coin Hive script is now automatically disabled for people who use uBlock Origin.

There will eventually be sites which allow users to opt out of cryptocurrency mining, though. For the time being, the on-site implementation is a valid way to get rid of advertisements, which are incredibly annoying. However, this choice should never be forced upon people without giving them a chance to view ads or simply block both revenue models at the same time. The bigger question is whether or not cryptocurrency mining scripts are “badware” or not. That will remain a topic of substantial debate for some time to come.

  • xeridea

    Setting up a low priority mining script (perhaps 30% of a single core) on a site isn’t any worse than all the horrendously slow and inefficient ads out their that take up a lot of CPU resources anyway. BTW, you can’t just opt out of ads on 99.99999% of websites anyway. Everyone hates ads, but would never notice a bit of mining. Win-Win.

    • Locodoco

      It’s worse because those mining script are hidden, unlike most ads.

      • xeridea

        If you had to pick between a resource hog annoying ad, or a sublte barely noticeable mining script you would rather see the ad? Yeah, you can see the ad but that is a major drawback, not a plus.

        • Ryuzaki Raiga

          u said that because your are miner, the same goes who want to do backdoor criminal they always think they are right

        • BNP WJ

          It’s the principle that’s the killer. In practice it may provide a better user experience while painlessly paying for content. But doing it secretly is just not permissable in principle. Slippery slopes we may have already slid down aside, even the benign cases are not acceptable if hidden.

          • xeridea

            Of course it is probably abused by many. It can easily be shown somewhere on site somewhere less flashy than ads. Part of my point is that many ads waste tons of CPU cycles anyway, so if you set to low usage, its the better way to go. The one embedding in an extension is a bit douchy for sure.

  • Confusius

    What about putting the bitmining servers into the HOSTS file ?

    • The House

      scripts would prolly evolve to lists of ip addresses.

  • kill it with fire