Security Experts:

Google Disables Inline Installation of Chrome Extensions for Deceptive Developers

Google has decided to disable inline installations for Chrome extensions whose developers use deceptive tactics to trick users into installing their products.

Inline installation was introduced by Google in 2011 in an effort to make it easier for users to add extensions to Chrome by allowing them to install extensions hosted on the Web Store directly from the developer’s website.

Some developers have abused this feature and distributed their extensions via deceptive advertisements and websites. Google has been keeping an eye on developers who use such tactics and they will no longer be able to use inline installation starting with September 3.

“For these extensions, inline installation attempts will be redirected to the extension’s product details page in the Chrome Web Store, allowing the user to make an informed decision about whether to install,” members of Google’s Chrome Policy and Anti-Abuse team said in a blog post.

According to Google, this change will affect only less than 0.2 percent of extensions, but the company believes this move is important for keeping a healthy extension ecosystem. Developers who have any questions regarding the blocking of inline installations are advised to contact Google at [email protected]

Chrome extensions can pose serious security and privacy risks. In April, researchers reported identifying an extension that contained malicious code designed to copy users’ browser data to a remote server.

Ad injectors, unwanted applications that insert advertisements into the websites visited by users, can also be problematic. In March, Google announced removing nearly 200 Chrome extensions classified as ad injectors from the Web Store.

In May 2014, Google announced a new policy designed to protect Windows users by allowing only the installation of extensions hosted on the Chrome Web Store. Since this policy was not enforced for developers, malicious actors started tricking users into installing the developer channel of Chrome. This allowed them to continue delivering malicious extensions from third-party websites.

In an effort to put an end to these tactics, the search giant decided to enforce the extension hosting policy for all channels, including the OS X version, starting with July 2015.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.