Google purges 500 harmful Chrome extensions from its Web Store

The extensions injected aggressive, infectious advertisements into millions of users’ browsers

Chrome browser logo

Google has deactivated at least 500 malware-ridden Chrome extensions from its Web Store following the findings of an independent security investigation. 

The removed extensions employed aggressive ‘malvertisements’ by steering users to destination links susceptible to malware downloads and phishing attacks. 

Concern originally rose after independent security researcher Jamila Kaya flagged the activity as suspicious, recognising a common URL across a number of malicious ad redirects, all of which stemmed from a variety of Chrome extensions.

"Individually, I identified more than a dozen extensions that shared a pattern," Kaya told ZDNet

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

Kaya contacted researchers at Cisco’s Duo Security, and together they used Duo’s security extension ‘CRXcavator’ to identify the Chrome add-ons as dubious, belonging to “a network of copycat plugins sharing nearly identical functionality” as described by Duo’s report on the issue. 

Google’s “receptive and responsive” reaction saw the company swiftly remove more than 500 associated extensions from Chrome’s Web Store, which according to Duo, had garnered an install count totaling more than 1.7 million Chrome users.

“We appreciate the work of the research community, and when we are alerted of extensions in the Web Store that violate our policies, we take action and use those incidents as training material to improve our automated and manual analyses,” said a Google spokesperson in response to Duo’s report. 

Although the ad redirects were described to be particularly hostile and noticeable, this strategy of forceful redirection seems to have become typical of digital advertisers. Thus, it is especially difficult for users to gauge whether or not an ad redirect will jeopardise their personal security. 

Duo researchers speculate the group behind the network to have been operating since the early half of the 2010s. The extensions are suspected to have belonged to a larger malware network operation active for at least two years.

Featured Resources

Digital Risk Report 2020

A global view into the impact of digital transformation on risk and security management

Download now

6 ways your business could suffer if you don’t backup Office 365

Office 365 makes it easy to lose valuable data regularly, unpredictably, unintentionally, and for good

Download now

Get the best out of your workforce

7 steps to unleashing their true potential with robotic process automation

Download now

8 digital best practices for IT professionals

Don't leave anything to chance when going digital

Download now

Most Popular


How to use Chromecast without Wi-Fi

5 Feb 2020
operating systems

How to fix a stuck Windows 10 update

12 Feb 2020

The top ten password-cracking techniques used by hackers

10 Feb 2020

Microsoft to add Defender antivirus software to Linux, iOS and Android

21 Feb 2020