Fake adblockers found on Google Chrome

Monday, 30 April, 2018

According to Adguard Software more than 20 million users of Google Chrome have unwittingly downloaded malicious fake adblockers that are harvesting their personal data.

We all have an abiding dislike of pesky popup ads, so we all turn to installing adblockers. But Adguard reveal that Google’s Chrome browser is actually home to thousands of malicious and fake adblocker software.

One example they give is the ‘AdRemover for Google Chrome’ extension with more than 10 million users. Adguard described this as a ‘natural botnet’ comprised of millions of infected browsers able to steal personal data from Chrome users.

This is then sent to a command and control (C&C) centre where the scammers can steal your data.

Other named fake adblockers found include, Webutation, HD for YouTube, Adblock Pro and UBlock Plus.

While Adguard informed Google of their presence it is unclear at present if they have been removed. If you have installed them on your extension it is recommended to remove them straight away

This is not the first time fake Adblockers have been found on the Chrome Webstore. Just last year 37,000 people were tricked into downloading fake Adblockers. Likewise, in August seven Chrome extensions were compromised by hackers that conducted a malvertising campaign.

Surfing through the Chrome’s Web Store is like walking through a minefield. If you want to install an extension, think twice. And then think twice again. Check who is the author of this extension. Do not install it if you don’t trust the author. Please note, that at some point the extension can be sold to someone else, and who knows what it will become.

- Adguard Software Ltd: Blog Post

Adblockers are essentially content filters. They rely on a predefined list to identify and remove ads. This works by compiling lists of expressions associated with ads and using pattern matching to compare outgoing requests made by your browser.

And while they leave us ad-free the blocking of them has serious repercussions for those who attempt to make a living on the internet. It has long been an unwritten understanding that if we want content free access to sites adverts are the price we pay.

But the nature of adblockers means that potential revenue is seriously undermined. In 2018 the global revenue generated by advertising was $6.8 billion. And 2018 may well see internet advertising revenue finally overtake that of television.

Many have long argued that adblocking is a real problem not only for internet businesses but for users if we continue to unwittingly undermine a significant revenue source. Soon, whether we like it or not, we may all have to deal with the devil.

image source: commons.wikimedia

Tim Bamford author picture


Tim is a veteran freelance journalist writing extensively on internet news and cybersecurity.