recommended reading

Google Chrome’s Little Helpers Are Offering Hackers a Backdoor to Hijack Your Web Browsing

Mark Lennihan/AP

Extensions are useful little programs written by independent developers to customize your browser experience, whether its by blocking advertisements,aggregating your newsfeed, or keeping you on task. But they may also offer a way for malicious coders to get past Google Chrome’s notoriously tight security to harness your online activity for personal profit, or perform other acts of  mayhem.

In December, Google’s developer community noticed that an extension called Window Minimizer was hijacking people’s searches to earn money for a third-party search engine. The extension—a productivity shortcut for other web developers—was written by someone calling himself Ionut Botizan, who had it reroute links from Google search to a third party search engine called Ecosia, allegedly to save the rainforest (Right…). Botizan’s little trick is an variation on clickjacking, which momentarily shunts web users to a third-party site to artificially boost traffic or generate ad revenue.

Extensions run alongside Chrome, not within it, so the security onus is supposed to be on developers, who have to abide by Google’s Developer Program Policies, and on users, who must agree to each extension’s Terms of Service. Ostensibly, this frees both Google and the developer from liability. But in practice it means that Google has to play catch-up to police the thousands of Chrome extensions that are available.

On its own, Botizan’s hack was mostly harmless. But it’s worrying how easily he was able to fool other developers, the very people who should know better. For those of us who may not be so well-informed, it’s sobering to think what a truly malicious extension could do.

Threatwatch Alert

Software vulnerability

Malware Has a New Hiding Place: Subtitles

See threatwatch report


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.