20 Million Users Installed Malicious Ad Blockers from Google Chrome Store

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Aarzu Khan
A full-time data scientists and a part-time industry analyst; still learning power of effective presentation and firm believer of the thought "Numbers are always magical". Love to be in the network of people who 'know' how to respect their time and keep others engaged in meaningful activities.

The increasing number of internet users have created a big opportunity window for advertisers and publishers. Google has sensed the opportunity at the very early level and captured the lion’s share of digital advertising revenue through a fleet of tools. In Q4 2017, Google’s revenue from digital ads accounted for 85% of the company’s total revenue. reached On the flip side, this has resulted in broken internet experience and internet users found a solution in a form of ad blockers to get rid of annoying ads that keep popping up while browsing websites.

But the recent incident has rattled the Chrome users who have installed ad blockers to have an ad-free internet experience. A security research firm has identified five malicious ad blockers on Google Chrome store that are already been downloaded by 20 million users who are now on the risk of losing crucial personal information, including username and passwords of sites they visited using Chrome browser.

To make the damages more severe these malicious ad blockers on Chrome Store are highly optimised for the search result. Hence, when a person searches for an extension of Adblocker for Chrome browser most likely he may end up installing the malicious app instead of the legit one.

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The malicious browser extensions are developed for the purpose of stealing internet users’ sensitive personal information and to hack their accounts on various platforms. After installing any of such malicious extension on Chrome browser when a user fills out any form with his personal information or log in to his email or social media platforms, all those information is tracked by these extensions and send to the server without the consent of users. Later hackers make use of the stored information to hack their accounts.

Interestingly, the below listed five ad blockers resemble the popular and legit ad blockers. Andrey Meshkov, co-founder of Adguard, first identified these malicious ad blockers for Chrome. He also reported to Google and by the time of reporting the internet giant pulled down all the below ad blockers from its Chrome store.

  • AdRemover for Google Chrome™ (10 million+ users)
  • uBlock Plus (8 million+ users)
  • [Fake] Adblock Pro (2 million+ users)
  • HD for YouTube™ (400,000+ users)
  • Webutation (30,000+ users)

“All the extensions I’ve highlighted are simple rip-offs with a few lines of code and some analytics code added by the authors,” Meshkov says.

There is no predefined safe passage to avoid malicious ad blockers unless you don’t want to use any. However, if you need to install ad blockers for some reason make sure you disable all the extensions while accessing any of your email or social media accounts.    

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