According to a report published by AdGuard, over 20,000,000 Chrome users have apparently been tricked into installing fake and/or malicious ad blockers over the years. The company lays the blame squarely at the door of Google. It says that ‘poor moderation’ of the Chrome Webstore is to be blamed for the situation. Users are being tricked into installing a malicious duplicate of Wladimir Palant’s popular ad-blocking extension, Adblock Plus.
These latest extensions are simple rip-offs with a few lines of code and some analytics added by the ‘authors’. AdGuard’s Andrey Meshkov writing on the company’s blog says –
“I must say the problem is not new. It’s been a while since different ‘authors’ started spamming Chrome WebStore with lazy clones of popular ad blockers (with a few lines of their code on top of them). That’s how users could end up installing ‘Adguard Hardline’ or ‘Adblock Plus Premium’ or something like that. The only way of fighting this stuff is to file a trademark violation abuse to Google, and it takes them a few days to take a clone down.”
The creators use spamming keywords in the extension description. Resultantly they are able to make their fake apps/extensions appear in the top search results which gains trust from casual users. Detailed analysis of one of the extensions shows that it uses malicious code to send back information about websites visited and receives commands that can change browser behaviour.
The following are the alleged offenders, according to AdGuard:
- AdRemover for Google Chrome (10M+ users)
- uBlock Plus (8M+ users)
- Adblock Pro (2M+ users)
- HD for YouTube (400K+ users)
- Webutation (30K+ users)
It is worth noting that alongside Adblock Plus and uBlock Origin, these are some of the biggest competitors for AdGuard. However, that doesn’t automatically mean that there’s an ulterior motive for the company’s tirade against so-called malicious ad-blockers. Noteworthy, some of these have been very well-reviewed by users over the years.
Be secured. Download the apps from the trusted sources. You can always do your own research or at least google it.