Home Security Attacker goes on mass hijacking of Chrome extensions

Security firm Proofpoint says it has found evidence that a number of extensions for Google's Chrome browser were hijacked and used to divert traffic and substitute advertisements on victims' browsers. The targets appear to have been Windows users.

In a detailed explanation, a member of the company's staff, who uses the pseudonym Kafeine, said the compromise of these extensions had taken place towards the end of July and the beginning of August.

The attacker(s) had gained access to the extensions through the Google accounts of the authors, using a phishing scheme to obtain the necessary credentials. A screenshot of a typical phishing email can be seen below.

proofpoint phishing email

Extensions that were examined included Web Developer 0.4.9, Chrometana 1.1.3, Infinity New Tab 3.12.3, CopyFish 2.8.5, Web Paint 1.2.1 and Social Fixer 20.1.1.

"We believe that the Chrome Extensions TouchVPN and Betternet VPN were also compromised in the same way at the end of June," Kafeine wrote.

One developer, Chris Pederick, who creates the Web Developer for Chrome extension, co-operated with the Proofpoint so they could write a detailed explanation of how the compromise was being effected.

proofpoint windows

One of the affiliate programmes receiving the hijacked traffic.

Chrome extensions are available from Google's Chrome store. However, third-party extensions can be installed by those who have some technical knowledge.

Kafeine wrote that the compromised version of an extension tried to substitute ads in a victim's browser, diverting traffic from legitimate advertising networks.

Many of the diverted requests were for ads from porn sites. "In many cases, victims were presented with fake JavaScript alerts prompting them to 'repair' their PCs, then redirecting them to affiliate programmes from which the threat actors could profit.," Kafeine said.

Screenshots: Courtesy Proofpoint


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.


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