Until a week or two ago, I used a Chrome browser extension called The Great Suspender. I first installed it many years ago, to reduce the amount of memory Chrome took up when I had a lot of tabs open. (At one point I got over 1,000 - but more recently have managed to stay under 200 at a time.)
This all changed when Chrome gave me a message saying it was disabling the extension because it contained malware. WHAT?!
The next time Chrome updated, the extension was re-enabled. Puzzled head scratching, and assumption that Google had stuffed something up. Then a few days later it was disabled once more and I decided to find out why - especially since I lost a hundred-odd tabs that were ‘suspended’ when it was disabled.
A quick search later, and I find out that the extension was sold in the middle of 2020. Since the sale, the new owner has inserted certain malicious code.
I have now dumped the extension entirely - but this raises some broader issues.
- I had no visibility into the change of ownership. The ‘owner’ appeared the same in the Chrome Web Store.
- Do I now need to change a bunch of passwords? (Uh - yes, if only to be absolutely sure of my security.)
- What other Chrome extensions am I using that could be malicious? Good news for me - I use very few addons, and almost all of them are well known and for security purposes. Except The Great Suspender was well known - it had over two million installs!
I have gone through my extensions now and removed all the ones that I do not consider critical and/or whose publisher I trust not to sell. A shame - some of them were useful - but I do not absolutely need to be directed to Amazon Smile every time I shop on Amazon - nor do I need to know how many tabs I have open. (Actually, the latter is debatable - but…)
Something for all of us to consider in all the browsers we use. My other browsers are fortunately limited in their use of extensions, but this is an object lesson for me. If you are another of those two million users, I recommend you review whether your personal information may have been breached. For everyone else - consider which extensions you really need.