Chrome Extensions Pulled by Google for Installing Malware

Wednesday, 22 Jan 2014 08:15 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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Two Google Chrome browser extensions found to be installing malicious software on computers have been removed from the company's web store.

The extensions, which connected Chrome users to Twitter and the Feedly RRS service, were found to be used to download software that hijacked Google searches and redirect links to poor-quality and intrusive advertisements, according to The Guardian.

"Extensions are normally used to add specific functions to a browser, much like apps on a mobile phone, which add new features or removing others, such as blocking adverts or adding quick links to other services including Twitter and Facebook," wrote The Guardian's Samuel Gibbs. "Google's Chrome web store policies specifically prevent developers from inserting advertising on more than one part of a page, with strict guidelines to which they must adhere."

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The Los Angeles Times reported that Amit Agarwal, Add to Feedly's original developer, said on a recent blog he sold his extension after being offered "a four-figure sum," but admits it was a bad idea because the company may have been a malware provider.

The developers of Honey, another Chrome extension, told the Los Angeles Times that they were approached for similar reasons.

"Over the past year we've been approached by malware companies that have tried to buy the extension, data collection companies that have tried to buy user data, and adware companies that have tried to partner with us," the developers told the Times.

Joey-Elijah Sneddon, of OmgChrome.com, wrote that developers should be more careful in selling their extension because of the increasing aggressiveness of malware companies to circumvent consumer protections by any means possible.

"Such an offer (to Agarwal) would tempt most of us," Sneddon wrote. "But in pocketing the money, and transferring ownership to another party, Amit also sold the trust of the 30,000+ users who had chosen to install it. Just a few short months after completing the deal the new add-on owners issued their first, and thus far only, update. One that added an unwelcome new 'feature:' adware."

Sneddon wrote that some malware providers are even adding "dummy" off switches, meant to deceive the consumer while continuing to feed them unwanted advertisements.

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