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Google Bans Cryptocurrency Mining Apps from Play Store

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:05 PM
Mark Emem
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:05 PM

After banning cryptocurrency mining extensions from its Chrome Store earlier in the year, Google has now outlawed apps on its Play Store that engage in similar activity.

In a new update to its developer policies, the tech giant has indicated that apps which are used to mine cryptocurrencies will be prohibited henceforth. However, the Mountain View, California-based tech firm made an exception with regards to apps which are used in the remote management of cryptocurrency mining as these will be allowed.

“We don’t allow apps that mine cryptocurrency on devices. We permit apps that remotely manage the mining of cryptocurrency,” reads the updated guidelines .

Ransomware is so Yesterday

The ban comes in the wake of rising cases of cryptojacking of devices with the practice increasingly being viewed as more lucrative than ransomware by malicious actors. In April this year, for instance, global cybersecurity firm Kaspersky disclosed that cryptocurrency mining apps containing the Coinhive miner were being offered on Google Play Store disguised as harmless entertainment apps for instance.

One of the examples  given at the time was PlacarTV, an app used to stream soccer games while mining Monero coins in the background thereby draining the device’s battery or slowing down devices. However, since the app functioned as advertised it was easy for users to blame the short battery life on factors such as the age of the device.

First it Came for Crypto Mining Extensions…

Prior to outlawing cryptocurrency mining apps on Google Play Store, the online search behemoth had announced a ban on cryptocurrency mining extensions on its Chrome Store. The move had come after Google had failed in reining in bad actors.

“Until now, Chrome Web Store policy has permitted cryptocurrency mining in extensions as long as it is the extension’s single purpose, and the user is adequately informed about the mining behavior,” Google Chrome Extensions Platform Product Manager, James Wagner, wrote in a statement  at the time. “Unfortunately, approximately 90% of all extensions with mining scripts that developers have attempted to upload to Chrome Web Store have failed to comply with these policies, and have been either rejected or removed from the store.”

Taking the Cue From Apple?

One of the Chrome extensions that was found to have been secretly mining cryptocurrencies on the devices of unsuspecting users was a link shortener known as Short URL. By the time it was discovered, it had been downloaded 15,000 times. Another Chrome extension that was equally guilty was Archive Poster which is used to manage Tumblr posts.

Google is not alone in placing restrictions on cryptocurrency mining apps. Last month, iPhone maker Apple forbid apps that mine cryptocurrencies on the device though it allowed those that conducted such activities off the tablet or smartphone, say on the cloud. Additionally, Apple also prohibited app developers from featuring third-party ads that mine cryptocurrencies.

Featured image from Shutterstock.