Chrome browser users are excited: Google developers are introducing a feature that neutralizes abusive ads that cover up your CPU resources, bandwidth, and electricity.
The move is in response to a swarm of websites and ads that were first noticed in 2017 and that are secretly using visitors' computers to mine Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. While content is displayed on the websites or ads, embedded code performs the resource-intensive calculations and stores the mined currency in a wallet specified by the developer. To hide the fraud, the code is often heavily obscured. The only signs that something is wrong are whirring fans, empty batteries and, for those who are careful, increased consumption of network resources.
In a post released on Thursday, Chrome project manager Marshall Vale said that while the percentage of abusive ads is extremely low – around 0.3 percent – it accounts for 28 percent of CPU usage and 27 percent of network data.
"We recently found that a fraction of a percent of ads use a disproportionate amount of device resources such as battery and network data without the user knowing about it," Vale wrote. "These ads (e.g., ads that break down cryptocurrency, are poorly programmed, or are not optimized for network usage) can shorten battery life, overload congested networks, and cost money."
To limit the process, Chrome limits the resources that a display ad can consume before a user interacts with it. When the limit is reached, the ad frame navigates to an error page informing the user that the ad has consumed too many resources. A deactivated ad looks something like this:
To reach the ad deactivation threshold, Chrome developers measured a wide range of ads that Chrome users encounter. Ads that consume more CPU resources or network data than 99.9 percent of all ads are blocked. This corresponds to 4 megabytes of network data or 15 seconds of CPU usage in a period of 30 seconds or 60 seconds of total CPU usage.
Chrome developers plan to experiment with the limits over the next few months and add them to the stable version of the browser by the end of August. The purpose of the deferred rollout is to give ad creators and tool vendors time to include the limits in their coding. Chrome users who want to activate the function earlier can activate the flag at chrome: // flags / # enable-heavy-ad-Intervention.
Several antivirus providers have already given users the option of sorting out ads that deal with so-called cryptojacking or similar types of abuse. Chrome users will soon be able to do the same natively.