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Definition

browser extension malware

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Extension malware is any browser extension that was developed intentionally with coding that causes undesirable behaviors or whose code has been compromised by an attacker to do so.

Like other types of software, browser extensions can be designed to carry out attacks. In January 2018, for example, a security company called ICEBERG reported that they had detected four malicious extensions available from the Chrome Web Store. The four -- Change HTTP Request Header, Nyoogle - Custom Logo for Google, Lite Bookmarks and Stickies - Chrome's Post-it Notes -- were apparently designed to conduct click fraud and black hat SEO practices. ICEBERG warned that the same access methods that enabled those behaviors could also make it possible for the attackers to breach corporate networks and gather sensitive data.

Although Google subsequently removed the four extensions from the store, ICEBERG noted that the extensions may still exist on the machines of people who downloaded them and that they may also still be available through third-party repositories.

In other cases, an extension may be hijacked by an attacker. According to threat protection vendor Proofpoint, in July and August of 2017, eight compromised Chrome browser extensions (Copyfish, Web Developer, Chrometana, Infinity New Tab, Web Paint, Social Fixer, TouchVPN and Betternet VPN ) sent malicious code to nearly 4.8 million users. Targeted users were shown a JavaScript alert that said their PC needed to be repaired and were then directed to pay for the false repairs, enabling the attackers to profit from this scheme.

Security experts recommend that users be judicious when installing browser extensions. Whenever possible, you should check what permissions an extension requires. It’s wise, as well, to refrain from installing extensions from unknown companies and developers.

This was last updated in January 2018

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