Google Chrome is the most widely used web browser in the world, currently grabbing more than almost 60 percent of the web browsing market.
One of the features people like about Chrome is the large assortment of third-party extensions and themes available. Themes are popular among users who want to personalize and alter their browser's appearance.
However, if you're not careful, some featured themes can lead you to sketchy sites that will do you more harm than good. Whatever you do, don't fall for these hoaxes!
Beware of "free movies" links
An assortment of fake "free movie" links are popping up in the official Chrome Web Store, including those of popular films like "Black Panther," "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Rampage."
Apparently, the fraudsters are slipping these malicious links into the Chrome Web Store by taking advantage of the "Theme" section.
I looked into the dubious extensions myself and it appears that the fake links are embedded within the Chrome Web Store description for the themes.
See picture below for examples.
When clicked, these links will lead you to a website that offers "Full HD Online 4K" versions of the movies.
However, this "free movies" page is actually just another scam, as it redirects you to a malicious platform called Vioos.com.
Clicking on the Play button on the embedded video player will redirect you again to another malicious platform called "Zumastar." At this point, you will be asked to create a "free account" to play the movie, in addition to access to "unlimited downloads & streaming."
Sound sketchy? You bet it is! If you encounter "free movies" sites that offer the same thing, don't fall for it by creating an account.
According to TorrentFreak, Vioos.com also redirects to a similar scam platform called EtnaMedia.Net, a website that's being flagged and blocked by Malwarebytes for fraud. Users are also flagging this as a phishing and credit card scam site.
How many people have downloaded the themes?
Although the themes themselves don't appear to be malicious (it's the links within their descriptions that make them dangerous), TorrentFreak has tracked the number of people who have installed the themes.
This will give us an idea of how many Chrome users will install anything from the Web Store without verifying a theme or extension's legitimacy.
So far, the "Free Watch Rampage Online Full Movie" theme has been applied 2,196 times, the "Watch Avengers Infinity War Full Movie” version has 974 users, the "Watch Ready Player One 2018 Full HD" page has 1,031, and the "Watch Black Panther Online Free 123putlocker" theme has more than 1,800 installs.
Note: If you installed any of these themes, here's how you delete them. Go to your Chrome settings by clicking the three red dots on the upper right side, click Settings >> Go to the Appearance section then click "RESET TO DEFAULT" to clear the theme out.
Protect yourself from these scams
As always, if a link or website claims to have "free streaming movies," please don't fall for it! These sites can trick you into signing up for fraudulent accounts and even install backdoor trojans by installing fake video plugins or download managers.
These fly-by-night sites also go by various names and they change domains all the time so spotting them all can be challenging. To be safe, just avoid piracy sites in general.
In this modern age of content streaming, there are tons of legitimate sites that offer free, legal movies so why even bother with these illegal platforms for your entertainment anyway?
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