Adblockers Hijacked To Snoop On Users

John Lister's picture

Two ad-blocking Chrome extensions have been removed from distribution after they were altered to collect user data. People who've already installed Nano Adblocker and Nano Defender should now remove the tools. Instructions for removal are near the end of the article.

Both Nano Adblocker and Nano Defender started out as legitimate extensions which users could integrate into the Chrome browser to block ads. They had a combined total of 250,000 downloads, and ironically that success seems to be what ended up causing the problems.

New Owners Manipulate Extension

The original developer sold the extensions, describing the new owners only as "a group of Turkish developers." They've now manipulated the extension with malicious code. (Source:

This appears to be a growing problem where small developers create a useful and safe extension that becomes popular. They then find it hard to resist a buyout and don't ask too many questions about who wants to control the extension or why they want it.

Analysts say the Nano Adblocker and Nano Defender now abuse their access to the user's browser and gather details including the IP address, the pages the user visits online, how long they spent on each site, and which links they clicked on a page.

Instagram Accounts Hijacked

Users have also noted that their browser was hijacked to give bogus "likes" to images on Instagram. That's most likely an attempt to artificially make an Instagram account appear to be hugely popular, allowing scammers to sell the rights to "sponsored images" based on the fake following.

The alteration means the extensions now violate Google's terms and conditions. They've now been removed from the Chrome store. However, they won't automatically be removed from computers where they are already installed so users should do so manually.

It appears the versions of the same extensions in the equivalent Firefox and Microsoft Edge stores aren't affected. However, Edge users may have installed the Chrome extension, in which case they should also remove it. (Source:

How to Remove Chrome Extensions

To remove Nano Adblocker and Nano Defender, launch Chrome, then click the 3 dots on the top far right corner browser. Next, click More Tools -> Extensions, then click "Remove" for the offending extensions.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you use browser extensions? How do you check they are legitimate, both when you install them and later on? Should Google remotely disable installed extensions when it removes them from its store?

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