If you have installed AdBlock Plus recently, you should check to make sure it’s the real thing. This is because a phony version which is almost identical to the legitimate version made it to the Chrome Web Store. And it was available long enough for more than 37,000 people to download it.
We’re not fans of adblockers here at MakeUseOf, because they prevent us from being able to pay the bills associated with running a popular website. However, we’re even less enamored by scammers tricking innocent internet users into installing an illegitimate version of a popular program…
SwiftOnSecurity Calls Out Fake Adblock Plus
As first spotted by anonymous security researcher SwiftOnSecurity, a fake version of AdBlock Plus was live for some time on the Chrome Web Store. Google has now removed the phony version of the popular adblocking extension, but not before over 37,000 people installed it on their devices.
The listing for the fake version of AdBlock Plus was almost identical to the legitimate listing. The name was the same, and it was listed as being “offered by AdBlock Plus”. The only big giveaway was the description stuffed with keywords to help the fake version rise to the top of search rankings.
Google allows 37,000 Chrome users to be tricked with a fake extension by fraudulent developer who clones popular name and spams keywords. pic.twitter.com/ZtY5WpSgLt
— SwiftOnSecurity (@SwiftOnSecurity) October 9, 2017
The other big clue was the number of downloads, with the real AdBlock Plus boasting 10 million, while this limped to 37,000. But how many people check those figures when installing a new extension? Instead, Chrome users generally trust that Google will only be offering the real deal.
SwiftOnSecurity didn’t mince their words, calling out the state of Google’s vetting procedure. And rightly so, because, without SwiftOnSecurity tweeting about it, this phony version of a really well-known extension would still be listed on the Chrome Web Store. And that isn’t good enough.
Google Needs to Improve Its Vetting Procedures
The fact this made it onto the Chrome Web Store suggests Google needs to get better at vetting Chrome extensions. And while 37,000 people isn’t many compared to the 10 million who use the real AdBlock Plus, it’s enough to warrant such efforts. Which will encourage others to follow suit.
And in the meantime, 37,000 people are running a phony version of AdBlock Plus that no one knows much about. One review claimed that installing this extension led to invasive ads that open new tabs. Which is a sign that the developer of this phony version had malicious intentions in mind.
Do you think you installed this phony version of AdBlock Plus? If so, have you noticed anything unusual while using Chrome? How do you think this dodgy extension made it past Google? Should Google do more to prevent this happening? The comments are open below!