“Particle” Chrome extension was sold and turned into adware

Particle for Youtube now functions like adware after being sold to a new developer

Particle extension sold to a new developer, turned into adware immediately

Users who have Particle For YouTube extension installed on their browsers should consider removing it as soon as possible. The original developer of the extension sold the extension to a new developer, which turns out to be a collector of abandoned Chrome extensions.

The compromised extension, which was formerly called YouTube+, has been transformed into adware that injects ads on websites the user visits. Besides, the new developer added two new permissions[1] for this extension:

  • Read and change data on the websites the user visits;
  • Manage user’s apps, extensions, and themes.

In May 2017[2], the original developer of Particle announced that the extension would be abandoned due to upcoming YouTube UI updates[3]. According to the author, the updates would have made most of the extension’s features unusable; therefore he decided to create a new project called Iridium.

Particle is now designed to display ads on popular websites

As soon as the extension was sold, the new developer adjusted extension’s code. The source code of Particle now contains a folder called algoad, which is responsible for injecting ads in popular websites. Users of this extension are forced to receive ads when visiting sites such as Booking.com, eBay, Yahoo, Bing, Google, or YouTube.

The adware displays ads on popular websites to collect views and clicks on them. The only purpose of this extension now is to generate pay-per-click revenue by promoting affiliate links, which can (possibly) point to hardly trustworthy or secure external sites. Users who notice strange redirects or inappropriate ads are advised to remove Particle virus right away.

What is interesting is that the extension is now owned by someone whose username is roberthawkingsg. This username is linked to two other Chrome extensions that function very similarly to Particle – Twitch Mini Player and TypeWriter Sounds.

Users who want to keep using the extension are advised to use Tampermonkey extension or a similar userscript manager or wait until the updated version, dubbed Iridium, becomes available.

Reasons why Youtube+ was sold to a new developer

In his post on GitHub on July 11, 2017[4], the original developer of Particle revealed that the extension was sold and that he no longer can make any changes or updates to it. The author provided an explanation on what has happened and apologized users for not revealing the truth earlier.

According to the developer, he decided to sell the extension because of two main reasons. He claims that the extension was meant to be abandoned because of the new YouTube layout.

The second reason that convinced him to sell the extension was the fact that the potential buyer agreed to pay “a high price” that he asked for. He also claims that money was an issue for him and that donations from users couldn’t even cover the ISP.

The original developer who goes by ParticleCore username explains that he researched the potential buyer before selling the extension to it. Unfortunately, no warning signs were noticed.

Once the deal was made, the original developer lost the right to reveal the buyer’s company name. Therefore, currently, it is unclear which company operates behind this suspicious extension.

Update. On July 14th, the Particle For Youtube extension was taken down off the Google Chrome store. It is not surprising, considering how many users expressed complaints about the extension's new permissions and ads that it served. Therefore, it seems that the case is closed and we won't see any more activity[5] of this extension anytime soon.

About the author
Linas Kiguolis
Linas Kiguolis - Expert in social media

Linas Kiguolis is one of News Editors and also the Social Media Manager of 2spyware project. He is an Applied Computer Science professional whose expertise in cyber security is a valuable addition to the team.

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