Google will block Chrome extension installs outside its Web Store

Google Chrome Extensions Can No Longer Be Installed Directly From Websites

Google today announced a major change to its Chrome Web Store policy that aims to shield users from websites that try to fool them into installing their Chrome extensions.

The reason, as you'd expect, is security, with Google saying that exploits are reduced significantly if third-party sites are taken out of the equation.

Extension developers who use inline installations now need to change the install buttons on their web properties before Chrome 71's release in December so that they link to the Chrome Web Store instead.

Starting today, inline installation will be unavailable to all newly published extensions.

Chrome browser users have three ways to install extensions: They can use Google's Chrome Web Store; they can use a link on a third-party website to fetch an extension from the Chrome Web Store via inline installation; or with developer mode enabled, they can download the code from an open source repository and install it.

Google says that the changes are being introduced because of "large volumes of complaints from users about unwanted extensions causing their Chrome experience to change unexpectedly".

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The company promised to do something against deceptive inline installations in January 2018 and revealed that fewer than 3% of extensions used deceptive or confusing install flows and that these 3% account for more than 90% of user complaints. Extensions first published on June 12, 2018 or later that attempt to call the chrome.webstore.install () function will automatically redirect the user to the Chrome Web Store in a new tab to complete the installation.

According to Google, this means that by the end of the year, users will only be able to install new Chrome extension only from their respective Chrome Web Store listings.

As a result, Google has chose to retire inline installations on all platforms. But, the mechanism has been abused by attackers to trick users into downloading malicious extensions. Users will be redirected to the Chrome Web Store.

That change will be necessary because Google will remove inline installation programming support with the forthcoming Chrome 71.

It may be more hard for malicious actors to get users to install their extensions directly from the Web Store. Finally, in December of this year, the latest version of Chrome (version 71) will not allow inline installs at all. You can also opt to use Google Chrome's install badge for greater visibility.

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