Google fights spammy extensions, So Stop Using the Chrome Web Store to Find Extensions

 

Google announces changes to Chrome Web Store policies to help fight spammy extensions, Till stop using the chrome web store to find extensions


Power up your Chrome. You can add new features to Chrome by installing extensions. Visit the Chrome Web Store on your desktop computer to discover 

Chrome Web Store

 

Chrome Web Store

The Chrome Web Store (CWS) is Google's online store for its Chrome web browser. As of 2019, CWS hosts about 190,000 extensions and web apps.CWS was publicly unveiled in December 2010,[2] and was opened on February 11, 2011, with the release of Google Chrome 9.0.[3] A year later it was redesigned to "catalyze a big increase in traffic, across downloads, users, and the total number of apps". As of June 2012, there were 750 million total installs of content hosted on CWS.

Some extension developers have sold their extensions to third-parties who then incorporated adware. In 2014, Google removed two such extensions from CWS after many users complained about unwanted pop-up ads.[8] The following year, Google acknowledged that about five percent of visits to its own websites had been altered by extensions with adware.


It sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out. If you’re looking for a new browser extension to try, or you want to download one that has been recommended to you, stop using the Chrome Web Store to look for it.

While I have the utmost confidence that you, a letmeask reader, won’t get suckered by scam extensions on the Chrome Web Store, AdGuard recently reported that 300 or so rogue extensions were responsible for suckering nearly 80 million Chrome users (minus any bots).

While a number of these extensions were your typical “crappy-sounding extensions that anyone with a brain should avoid,” there was plenty that was close enough to a reasonable-sounding extension to cause issues. For example:

  • Ad-block for YouTube
  • Adblocker for YouTube
  • A-blocker
  • UBlocker
  • AdBlock — Stop Ad on every Site
  • Adblocker-X
  • AdBurner
  • AdBear
  • StopAds
  • Adkill

These were all bogus listings that have since been removed from the Chrome Web Store, but only because AdGuard was able to get Google’s attention. Until that point, these extension scams racked up millions of total users since whenever they launched. And none of the extensions in that list, for the record, were legitimate—the extension that you’d want is “Adblock for Youtube,” by AdRemover, but how is a regular person expected to know that?

It feels like we write this sort of story with an alarming frequency. To me, that indicates that Chrome has a reasonably sized problem on its hands within the Chrome Web Store. It feels a bit like the Wild West, where anyone can seemingly upload any extension that’s either a malware-laden clone of another one or just the slightest bit different as to not make Google suspect there is something up.

Obviously, though, when “Adblocker,” “Ad-block,” and “Adblock” all have similar descriptions and icons, something is clearly up. But if you’re not very tech-savvy, again, how do you separate the malware from the must-have extensions?

AdGuard does a great job summarizing the guidance we’d typically offer:
  • “If you’re going to install a browser extension, think again. Maybe you don’t really need it?
  • Install extensions only from the developers you trust.
  • Don’t believe what you read in the extension’s description.
  • Reading the users’ reviews won’t help as well. Most of the malicious extensions have excellent reviews and yet they are malicious.”

Don’t use the Chrome Web Store internal search, follow the links on the trusted developers’ websites directly.


It feels a little weird to say that a Google entity, of all things, isn’t that trustworthy when it comes to search (and instead of using it, you should just use...Google). I wouldn’t recommend regular people use the Chrome Web Store to find anything they didn’t already know about; even then, the chance of getting caught with malware is still too great.

I mean, shoot, I just ran a simple search for “block ads,” like any normal person might, and these results all seem a little sketchy:

Chrome Web Store

Don’t install from the Chrome Web Store unless you are absolutely sure that what you’re installing is a legitimate extension. To make sure you’re not tempted or fooled by any other crappy extensions, find an extension’s original developer—a website, a GitHub, a Twitter account, whatever—or a reviews site that you trust, and use the links they provide to grab your extensions from Google. You’ll be that much safer for it.

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