Introducing PCVARK and their malicious ad blockers


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Apr 24, 2016
It isn’t news that the overwhelming majority of ad blockers in Chrome Web Store is either outright malicious or waiting to accumulate users before turning malicious. So it wasn’t a surprise that the very first ad blocker I chose semi-randomly (Adblock Web with 700,000 users) turned out malicious. Starting from it, I found another malicious extension (Ad-Blocker, 700,000 users) and two more that have been removed from Chrome Web Store a year ago (BitSafe Adblocker and Adblocker Unlimited).

All these ad blockers and probably some more were developed by the company PCVARK. According to Malwarebytes Labs, this company specializes in developing “potentially unwanted programs.” In other words: they show users warnings about alleged compromise, only to push them into installing their software. Once installed, this software will attempt to scare the user into installing more crappy applications and into paying money for fixing the supposed issue.

While PCVARK originally specialized in Mac software, they apparently also discovered pushing malicious ad blockers to Chrome Web Store as a valuable business opportunity. This was encouraged by Google’s lax moderation policies as well an almost complete lack of policy enforcement. While Google eventually managed to remove some extensions, at least two remain despite being obviously related to the removed ones.

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