Rogue extensions that hijack Chrome & Firefox are near impossible to remove

January 20, 2018 – 11:05 AM

As discovered by Malwarebytes researcher Pieter Arntz, a new pair of extensions plaguing Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox can hijack the browsers in order to push technical support scams at you and potentially even spy on your browsing activities.

Called “Tiempo en colombia en vivo” on the Chrome Web Store, the rogue extension can be installed on a machine when the user visits certain sites; trying to leave a malicious site results in an infinite loop of dialog boxes cautioning the user that they can’t leave the page until they install the extension. If they try to leave still, and choose the option to “Prevent this page from creating additional dialogs,” the tab will go into full screen mode and offer the ‘Add extension’ dialog popup that shows up when installing a Chrome extension.

If the user ends up installing the extension, it will proceed by hijacking their browser searches and redirect them to certain pages or YouTube videos in order to increase their views.

Interestingly, the extension is designed to also make its removal a difficult procedure; the first measure taken to ensure this is to redirect users from the ‘chrome://extensions/’ page where they could manage and delete the extension to ‘chrome://apps/?r=extensions’, which simply lists the various Chrome apps and extensions that they have installed.

With the normal path to deleting an extension now unavailable, most casual users will likely not be able to remove the extension. In his efforts, Arntz even tried more advanced methods such as disabling JavaScript, starting Chrome with all extensions disabled, and renaming the file path for where extensions are saved, but to no avail.

The only means of successfully removing the extension at this point is, per Artnz, to install Malwarebytes and let the anti-malware program do it for you. Alternatively, you may also try and manually browse to the extension’s folder and rename ‘1499654451774.js’, which is the JavaScript file the extension relies on. You can then restart Chrome and will be able to access the browser’s extension settings as normal, with the offending extension shown as being corrupted – and unable to work its nefarious magic as it can’t find the files it’s looking for. You can then proceed to delete it as you normally would.


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