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Chrome’s Adware Add-Ons Now Target of User Awareness Campaign

piracy-malware-tileRevelations that adware companies are buying popular Chrome extensions in order to hijack the browsing experience of tens-of-thousands of users has – rightly – shocked many.

While the true extent of this ‘buy-to-spam’ practice remains unknown the blight of adware suddenly appearing in popular Chrome add-ons is, anecdotally at least, on the increase.

Google are on the case. From June 2014 a new set of guidelines aimed at simplifying extensions, improving their performance, and making the use of ‘ad-injecting’ more transparent, come into force. Developers wishing to have their wares listed on the Store will need to comply.

In the meantime, in an attempt to raise awareness of unsavoury practices still allowed, Chrome users are taking to social media to warn others about extensions they’ve seen turn from useful must-have to spammy must-avoid.

Over on Reddit, a user referring to themselves as ‘smooshie has put together a list of 15 add-ons using unwarranted ad-jacking and browsing tracking techniques.

Included in this list are the automatic page refresh tool ‘Chrome Reload‘, start page alternative ‘Awesome New Tab Page‘, and the popular ‘Neat Bookmarks‘ add-on.

A small number of third-party extensions available from outside the Web Store are also allegedly affected.

If you’re an avid add-on anorak then jump on over to Reddit to see the full rundown of rogue browser extras. In the meantime, if you know of any other suspicious add-ons listed in the Chrome Web Store don’t hesitate to get in touch with us via our contact form, Facebook, Google+ page or Twitter. 

List of malware chrome extensions

  • desertturtle

    I use feedly as my reader since the google reader abandon me. At first read on Reddit link I thought the section below meant Feedly was guilty too. I am SO happy that I went back to Feedly to find the clarification. It’s not easy keeping up with this stuff. I am so grateful for all of you who help me with tech support and staying out of trouble. thank you.

    [–]smooshie[S] 1097 points 1 day ago*
    Anyone have a proper list of these scummy extensions?
    Add to Feedly

    • ken147

      Sorry to burst your bubble but Feedly has started to hijack publishers twitter links and replacing them with their own, Example:

      Lets say you read this article on feedly and want to tweet it, Normally when you would tweet it twitter would use the publishers metadata. Feedly is hijacking it by inserting their own links into said metadata, overriding the publishers link.

      • http://omgubuntu.co.uk/ Joey-Elijah Sneddon

        The Feedly hijacking annoys me immensely (I am biased, obviously). I have expressed my frustration via Twitter and they assure that they are no longer doing it. From the few tweets I’ve tried that seems to be the case, but colour me sceptical; seems like too good of a deal for them to drop entirely.

  • kems

    Where is the link to the reddit post?

  • Curt

    My friend and I were also solicited by an ad agency (http://www.milonasmedia.com/) to sell our extension. The offer was $20,000. We declined.

    The agency now has their own extension called “Pandora AdBlock Plus” (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/pandora-adblock-plus/ojhodhemilmjleephoimbfhoajnglghf). The extension puts ads in EVERYTHING. If you travel all the way back to their first 50 or so reviews, you can see all the people complaining about it. It looks to me like the extension owners have put in something to submit fake 5-star reviews, effectively burying those bad ones.

    Google has not yet pulled this from the webstore and I was unable to find a spot in their complaints form for this specific issue.

    • http://omgubuntu.co.uk/ Joey-Elijah Sneddon

      Out of interest, what is your extension called?

  • jason

    This will be the downfall of chromeOS if google doesn’t do anything to prevent this crap from happening!