295 Chrome extensions hijack search ads from Google and Bing

AdGuard discovers them while searching for fake ad blockers. The extensions bring it together to more than 80 million downloads. Google will only remove the extensions after AdGuard goes public with its findings.

AdGuard has been looking for fake ad blockers in the official Chrome Web Store 295 Extensions for the Google-Browser discovered manipulating search advertising in results from Google and Bing. Together, the 295 extensions have more than 80 million affected users.

Google Chrome (Image: Google)Most of the extensions in question, 245 namely, are simple tools to personalize the background image of the New Tab page. However, some of the extensions also act as widgets for weather forecasts or screenshots.

AdGuard’s analysis showed that all extensions are sourcing malicious code from the fly-analytics.com domain. This allows them to add ads to Google and Bing results lists without the knowledge or consent of the user.

According to ZDNet USA, most of the 295 extensions were still available in the official Chrome Web Store on Wednesday. “I honestly tried to report this to Google through different channels, but weeks have passed since then and everyone is still in the Chrome web shop,” tweeted Andrey Meshkov, founder and CTO of AdGuard. “OK, Google, what should you do to remove malware from the Google Chrome web store?”

In the meantime, Google has started deleting the malicious extensions. A full list can be found in a blog post by AdGuard.

In it, the company also criticizes other practices of the Chrome Web Store. So Google should allow numerous extensions that are based on the success of certain providers and only copy the functions of their extensions. Some of these extensions are also responsible for ad fraud and / or cookie stuffing, i.e. the storage of cookies from third-party companies.

Chrome extensions that Google removes from its marketplace are also marked as malicious and disabled in its browser. However, the uninstallation is the responsibility of the user.

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