This may seem like a strange question. No, we’re not going to compare the different ad-blocking extensions on Google Chrome because that would probably involve setting up another area of our website. But did you double check if AdBlock Plus, the ad-blocker you’re using to get rid of all those pesky popups is actually legit?
An estimated 37,000 users visited Google Chrome’s official webstore to download the popular ad blocker. Or so they thought. In reality though, what they actually downloaded was a fake extension packaged under the same name. The fake AdBlock Plus application even had its own fair share of reviews and ratings making it significantly more difficult to tell it apart from the legit chrome extension.
What did the extension do?
Well, for starters, it acted just like AdBlock Plus would, minus the “Block”. So it essentially became Ad Plus and swarmed PCs with ads, popups, new tabs and a host of other pesky problems. Fortunately, there was nothing too serious such as data loss. Fortunately for Google, a security researcher @SwiftOnSecurity spotted the fake AdBlock Plus extension and posted about it on Twitter. Even so, the extension had been already downloaded and installed by about 37,000 users.
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 question on everyone’s mind is how exactly this extension was able to pass Google’s stringent quality checks when a legit extension by the same name already exists with over 10 million users. In case you didn’t know, back in 2015, Google blocked users from downloading extensions that were not listed on the Chrome Web Store. Even though they have kept strong defences with this regard, there have been reports of around 1400 counterfeit versions of AdBlock Plus over the past two years on the Google Web Store but only around 900 of these have been removed, AdBlock claims.
How do I know if I have the legit AdBlock Plus?
Well, for starters, make sure that the AdBlock Plus extension you’re running is signed by the actual developers of the extension, in this case, AdBlock. If one were to search on Chrome’s Web Store, the correct version of AdBlock Plus would be as follows:
Simultaneously, you can also download the extension from the official website of AdBlock Plus if you’re not sure about the one offered on the Chrome Web store. In addition, the fake version was listed as an application on the Web store rather than being an extension. So keep an eye out for that as well.
Of course, before you download this extension, take a moment to consider the ethical implications of downloading this extension. While AdBlock Plus will likely protect you from malware infested popups, it also prevents many legitimate websites from earning money through advertisements. Ultimately, the power is in your hands. If you choose to install AdBlock Plus then be sure to install the correct extension.