Google’s cryptomining crackdown is a smart, energy saving move
Cryptomining can generate a small income and requires a computer and special program that helps solve complicated math problems. To do this, massive amounts of computer resources are needed.
Recently, Google announced updates to its Play Store policy, one of which included the banning of cryptomining apps. This is the latest step in an attempt to stop covert and/or malicious use of cryptomining. I think this is a reasonable move by the giant to protect the little guys.
The majority of Play Store users are likely not intentionally using cryptomining on their devices. Therefore, Google needs to take the responsible approach of preventing unwanted or unhealthy use of their end users’ devices.
Mining was once solely for cryptography enthusiasts, but as cryptocurrency picks up in popularity, more users looking to make a lucrative profit are testing their hand. This, in turn, increases the risk of many users’ devices being utilized for the extensive computer resources required, whether they’re aware of it or not.
Now that we’ve gone over the high level of how this all works, it’s important to understand how cryptomining can occur without user consent. First, anything that allows cryptomining can also succumb to cryptojacking. Cryptojacking is the unauthorized use of someone else’s computer or device to mine cryptocurrency, and it’s popular among hackers because it’s seen as a cheaper, more profitable alternative to ransomware.
Second, many consumers are unknowingly exposing themselves to cryptomining — and therefore cryptojacking. For example, this is often done via an app download or by visiting a certain website. A user may download an app whose main use is not for cryptomining, but the app still allows it in the background without any notification. This opens up that user’s device to cryptojacking and resource consumption without their knowledge.
I do see room, however, to take a less finite approach for Google. For example, a disclaimer could be provided that states upon install that "This app performs cryptocurrency mining that may have a negative effect on your device resources and battery life," which will then make the user very aware of the app’s capabilities, yet still maintains freedom of use.
As cryptocurrency remains a top trend in both the tech and general consumer worlds, it’s important that those who have a deeper understanding of everything going on and all the risks associated with it help to inform and protect those that are less educated. By being as transparent as possible, maybe we can help defend against cryptojacking and other malicious uses of unknowing individuals’ devices.