The endless fight (or should we say race?) between malware and anti-malware software is ready for another chapter: this time we'll be talking about some very annoying malicious code that often take the form of a Google Chrome extension and drives your favourite web browser here and there. If you're used to this kind of "infection" you might think that such thing aren't a problem: we just need to go to the extension page and delete them for good.
You were definitely right... until some months ago. Since 2016, most of these malicious software will prevent you from navigating to the settings pages - including the extension page - redirecting you elsewhere, such as to the Google Apps page, as soon as you try to.
Luckily enough, the issue is well-known to Google. According to this article on the Google knowledge base, these are the most common behaviors:
- Pop-up ads won't go away.
- Your Chrome homepage or search engine keeps changing or is not set to Google anymore.
- Unwanted Chrome extensions or toolbars keep coming back.
- You keep getting redirected to unfamiliar webpages.
The scenario we just described definitely falls into the latter case. Now that we nailed the issue, we just need to understand what we can do about it.
Step 1: Chrome Cleanup Tool
The answer is also Google-branded and was known as Google Chrome Cleanup Tool until recently, when it was renamed to Chrome Software Cleaner (at least in some countries). You just have to download it from its web page and execute it: it will identify and give you the chance to delete any potentially malicious extension from your system. On top of that, it will also give you the chance to reset your Chrome installation to its default settings - which is something you should really do anyway, expecially if the tool doesn't find any significative threat, since most malwares acts in a slightly different way (for example, messing up with your default page or search engines) that can still be cleaned with a good reset to factory defaults.
Step 2: Malwarebytes
Right after using the cleanup tool - and regardless of the outcome you think you achieved - you should also perform a full-system scan with Malwarebytes, which is still the best anti-malware software available these days. The freeware versions is usually more than enough, but if you run into these kind of issues frequently you should really consider to activate a premium account and spend some bucks to have some decent software take care of your system (since you don't seem able to do so).
Well, that seems to be it for now: happy cleaning up!