Firefox will block sneaky cryptocurrency and tracking software

It's only in testing for now, but Mozilla plans to cut off cryptocurrency mining and fingerprinting by default in the future.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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  • I've been covering the technology industry for 24 years and was a science writer for five years before that. I've got deep expertise in microprocessors, digital photography, computer hardware and software, internet standards, web technology, and other dee
Stephen Shankland
2 min read
A Firefox Nightly sticker

Mozilla is trying to reclaim influence lost to Google's Chrome and to rid the web of some of its bad habits. 

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Firefox is getting the ability to cut off two ugly parts of the web: software that uses your computer to mine cryptocurrency -- not for your benefit -- and that tracks you even when you don't agree to be tracked.

Firefox Nightly and Beta -- two test versions of the open-source browser -- have an option to block the crypto mining and the tracking technology, called fingerprinting. They're switched off unless you change the setting in preferences for now, but Mozilla plans to turn it on by default, the nonprofit said.

Mozilla, which is trying to reclaim influence lost to Google's dominant Chrome and rid the web of some of its bad habits, announced the changes in a blog post Tuesday.

The moves -- following the direction of rivals like Apple's Safari and Brave Software's Brave -- are a new example of browsers being more assertive on our behalf online. Instead of just doing what websites tell them to do, browsers are more actively intervening to protect privacy, extend battery life, cut down on advertising overload, and declutter websites with reader views. Website operators may not like it, but such actions can help make the web a place you enjoy instead of cringe at.

Mozilla uses the Disconnect service to identify crypto-mining and fingerprinting scripts.

Another major push by many browsers, though not Chrome, is to curtail tracking software and cookies that follow your online activity. Fingerprinting also is used to track you, but it bypasses ordinary tracking methods and instead runs a variety of tests of your browser's settings and abilities. That particular configuration can be unusual and therefore be used to identify you and track you. That tracking data can in turn be useful to advertisers hoping to target you or, in the case of Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal, find out your political affiliation.

Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether today typically rely on intense computing operations to verify transactions, a process called mining that's rewarded with occasional grants of newly created cryptocurrency. But some use crypto-mining scripts to get your computer to do the hard work while they reap the benefits.