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Two Adware-Infected Add-Ons Pulled from Chrome Web Store

piracy-malware-tileGoogle has pulled two extensions from the Chrome Web Store after reports they were hijacking users’ browsing experience to serve up unwanted ads. 

Both ‘Add to Feedly‘ and ‘Tweet This Page‘ were mentioned in reports that popular extensions are being purchased by adware companies who subsequently update them to silently inject adverts, pop-ups and affiliate links while the user is browsing.

As of today neither add-on is available to install from the Web Store, reports the Wall Street Journal.

While the pervasiveness of the ‘buy-to-spam‘ practice remains unknown more developers are coming forward to tell of their own experiences of adware and malware companies soliciting them.

In one example, the developers of the popular shopping add-on ‘Honeysay they were approached by several different malware, data collection and adware companies, all wanting to buy the add-on to gain access to its 700,000 users. Despite “six-figure sums” being proposed, the developers (wisely) refused to sell.

While Google are to be commended for acting on public concern and removing the offending items, it’s debatable whether anything would’ve been done had there not been such public admonishment.

Google will be hoping that the impending Web Store rule change, designed to improve performance of extensions in Chrome by forcing developers to ‘split’ functionality into separate add-ons, will prevent issues like this from occurring in the future.

  • eMcE

    Or Google should give us an option like is in Firefox, to disable automatic extension update.

    • Wesley Files

      Simple and effective.

      • eMcE

        Yeap.. Easy as 1,2,3 ;)

    • Chris

      While I don’t disagree with this, how effective would it really be for the non-geeks among us, who couldn’t figure out how to find the Extensions page in Chrome, let alone the Options dialog. Plus, assuming that some updates close vulnerabilities, not having auto-update would defeat that ability. I think Google’s move toward a more “curated” approach is a better solution, as long as updates need to be vetted as well.

      • eMcE

        There are always some pros and cons ;) As usual.

  • Chris

    “While Google are to be commended for acting on public concern and removing the offending items, it’s debatable whether anything would’ve been done had there not been such public admonishment.”

    Dumb comment. If there wasn’t a public admonishment, there wouldn’t be an obvious issue for Google to address. Once aware it was a problem, they addressed it. What more do you want? Coupled with their new rule changes for “extension functionality transparency” they are being proactive, IMO, in dealing with user security and privacy, as best as can be expected in a “wild west” environment where new technologies and uses of those technologies are being developed daily.

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

      The emphasis is on the “such”. There was considerable chatter on tech sites about the fact that the Feedly add-on was sold. Extensions have been filling up with adware for some time, but mainstream coverage has been minimal on it.

      So the “such” in this case is key to that statement.

      Also, do take a look at our Code of Conduct for commenting. We try to facilitate polite, courteous and civil discussion/debate :)

      • Chris

        You are right. I was out of line and do apologize,