On Feb. 10 a Microsoft Edge spokesperson told that the latest version of the web browser features a new PUA (Potentially Unwanted Apps) blocking feature that may block some illicit cryptocurrency mining malware.
When asked whether Microsoft plans to protect Edge users from illicit cryptocurrency miners, the spokesperson said that “this will be a particular area of focus.”
Microsoft’s principal product manager Amitai Rottem pointed out the new feature in a tweet on Jan. 30.:
Wait, what is this new setting in Edge? Is Edge trying to save me from downloading potentially unwanted apps, such as toolbar/adware? Why, yes it is! What used to be a enterprise Windows Defender Antivirus feature is making its way to consumers. Now in beta. pic.twitter.com/D4lYLKqAWL — Amitai Rottem (@AmitaiTechie) January 30, 2020
The tech giant’s program manager for the web platform Eric Lawrence explained that the feature blocks downloads that contain PUAs:
Base SmartScreen and SafeBrowsing both block malware. The feature shown here goes further by optionally blocking downloads that contain potentially unwanted (but not technically malware) code– think a utility app that also bundles in a crypto miner or notification spammer. — Eric Lawrence 🎻 (@ericlaw) January 31, 2020
Microsoft noted that the long-implemented Microsoft Edge Tracking Protection feature also blocks known cryptocurrency mining software by default.
A blog post published by Microsoft in early December 2019 reads:
“It’s worth noting that tracking prevention, when enabled, will always block storage access and resource loads for sites that fall into the Fingerprinting or Cryptomining categories on Disconnect’s tracking protection lists.”
Cryptojacking is the practice of illicitly mining cryptocurrencies on the hardware of unknowing hosts. Devices that fall victim to cryptojacking often show lower battery life and become less responsive. As cryptojacking is increasingly becoming a cybersecurity threat, efforts to tackle the issue are also scaling up.