Chrome web dev plugin with 1m+ users hijacked, crams ads into browsers

Toolmaker phished, Google account pwned, malicious code pushed out – and now fixed


A popular Chrome extension was hijacked earlier today to inject ads into browsers, and potentially run malicious JavaScript, after the plugin's creator was hacked.

Chris Pederick, maker of the Web Developer for Chrome extension, is urging anyone who uses his programming tool to update to version 0.5 or later. That's because miscreants apparently phished his Google account, updated the software to version 0.4.9, and pushed it out to its 1,044,000 users.

That booby-trapped build fetched JavaScript code from the web and ran it within people's browsers: the code forcibly slapped ads on pages, and may have done worse. If you installed v0.4.9, you should upgrade to the clean v0.5 replacement immediately, and consider changing passwords or nullifying login tokens and cookies used on sites visited while using the infected extension.

It's understood the software was compromised about five to six hours ago, around 6am Pacific Time, pulled down from the Chrome store around 8am PT, and fixed about an hour later. Here's the key tweets from Pederick, a software engineer based in San Francisco:

With over a million users, the compromised code would have allowed the crooks behind the scam to bank a sizable commission from the ads during the few hours the evil JS was active. Not every machine running the extension was affected, it seems – here's an example of the injected advertising:

The Firefox version of the plugin is not believed to have been compromised. The cause of the incident, Pederick believes, was a phishing email that resulted in the loss of his developer credentials. Folks have posted various negative reviews on the Chrome plugin's page, complaining of ads and Google Analytics tracking suddenly appearing in the software.

The tool normally "adds a toolbar button to the browser with various web developer tools." It's a Swiss army knife for coders.

We've asked Pederick for comment, and will update this piece with more information as it becomes available, such as what was the situation with his Google account and two-factor authentication. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Twitter founder Dorsey beats hasty retweet from the board
    As shareholders sue the social network amid Elon Musk's takeover attempt

    Twitter has officially entered the post-Dorsey age: its founder and two-time CEO's board term expired Wednesday, marking the first time the social media company hasn't had him around in some capacity.

    Jack Dorsey announced his resignation as Twitter chief exec in November 2021, and passed the baton to Parag Agrawal while remaining on the board. Now that board term has ended, and Dorsey has stepped down as expected. Agrawal has taken Dorsey's board seat; Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor has assumed the role of Twitter's board chair. 

    In his resignation announcement, Dorsey – who co-founded and is CEO of Block (formerly Square) – said having founders leading the companies they created can be severely limiting for an organization and can serve as a single point of failure. "I believe it's critical a company can stand on its own, free of its founder's influence or direction," Dorsey said. He didn't respond to a request for further comment today. 

    Continue reading
  • Snowflake stock drops as some top customers cut usage
    You might say its valuation is melting away

    IPO darling Snowflake's share price took a beating in an already bearish market for tech stocks after filing weaker than expected financial guidance amid a slowdown in orders from some of its largest customers.

    For its first quarter of fiscal 2023, ended April 30, Snowflake's revenue grew 85 percent year-on-year to $422.4 million. The company made an operating loss of $188.8 million, albeit down from $205.6 million a year ago.

    Although surpassing revenue expectations, the cloud-based data warehousing business saw its valuation tumble 16 percent in extended trading on Wednesday. Its stock price dived from $133 apiece to $117 in after-hours trading, and today is cruising back at $127. That stumble arrived amid a general tech stock sell-off some observers said was overdue.

    Continue reading
  • Amazon investors nuke proposed ethics overhaul and say yes to $212m CEO pay
    Workplace safety, labor organizing, sustainability and, um, wage 'fairness' all struck down in vote

    Amazon CEO Andy Jassy's first shareholder meeting was a rousing success for Amazon leadership and Jassy's bank account. But for activist investors intent on making Amazon more open and transparent, it was nothing short of a disaster.

    While actual voting results haven't been released yet, Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky told Reuters that stock owners voted down fifteen shareholder resolutions addressing topics including workplace safety, labor organizing, sustainability, and pay fairness. Amazon's board recommended voting no on all of the proposals.

    Jassy and the board scored additional victories in the form of shareholder approval for board appointments, executive compensation and a 20-for-1 stock split. Jassy's executive compensation package, which is tied to Amazon stock price and mostly delivered as stock awards over a multi-year period, was $212 million in 2021. 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022