We explore the threat derived from WebGL 2.0 focusing on abuses in the context of distributed cryptocurrency mining.


WebGL is a browser feature that enables JavaScript-based control of the graphics processing unit (GPU) to render interactive 3D and 2D graphics, without the use of plug-ins. Exploiting WebGL for attacks will affect billions of users since browsers serve as the main interaction mechanism with the world wide web. This paper explores the potential threats derived from the recent move by browsers from WebGL 1.0 to the more powerful WebGL 2.0. We focus on the possible abuses of this feature in the context of distributed cryptocurrency mining. Our evaluation of the attacks also includes the practical aspects of successful attacks, such as stealthiness and user-experience. Considering the danger of WebGL abuse, as observed in the experiments, we designed and evaluated a proactive defense. We implemented a Chrome extension that proved itself effective in detecting and blocking WebGL. We demonstrate the major improvements of WebGL 2.0 and our results show that it is possible to use WebGL 2.0 in distributed attacks under real-world conditions. Although WebGL 2.0 shows similar hash rates as CPU-based techniques, WebGL 2.0 proved to be significantly harder to detect and has a lesser effect on user experience.


September, 2019


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Research Areas

  • Browser exploit
  • GPU
  • WebGL
  • cryptocurrency mining




Computer Security - {ESORICS} 2019 - 24th European Symposium on Research in Computer Security, Luxembourg, September 23-27, 2019, Proceedings, Part {II}