Crooks have found a new venue to push malware: the official Google Chrome Web Store. It was recently used to hawk Chrome browser extensions secretly hijacking users’ Facebook profiles.
According to Kaspersky Lab expert Fabio Assolini, one malicious extension hosted on Google’s own servers contained hidden code that “can gain complete control” of the user’s Facebook profile. The extension then used that access to spread malicious messages and register Facebook Likes for certain items, also inviting fellow users to install it. The same operators advertised a service that delivered Likes of companies looking to promote their profiles. It costs about $27 per 1,000 Likes.
The company distributing this malicious extension was unnamed in the report as was the specific app. Assolini said Google personnel removed the malicious extension shortly after Kaspersky reported it to them. “But we noted the bad guys behind this malicious scheme are uploading new extensions regularly, in a cat and mouse game,” he warned. He didn’t elaborate on the number of extensions or how long he’s been observing them other than to say the malicious app Kaspersky discovered had 932 users.
Over the past few years, the openness of Google’s Android Market has represented one of the more conspicuous ways its users are attacked. As the software equivalent of a Wikipedia-like bazaar to which anyone may contribute, it has repeatedly been seeded with applications that take liberties with end users’ phones and data. Kaspersky’s report suggests similar attacks are exploiting Google’s Chrome Web Store.
“It is against the Chrome Web Store Content Policies to distribute malware,” a Google spokesman wrote in an email. “When we detect items containing malware or learn of them through reports, we remove them from the Chrome Web Store and from active Chrome instances. We’ve already removed several of these extensions, and we are improving our automated systems to help detect them even faster.”
Last month, Google unveiled a cloud-based service called Bouncer that scours the Android Market for malicious smartphone apps.