Google Adds Controls to Chrome Browser to Clear Malicious App Settings

The new "Reset Browser Settings" controls allow users to regain control of their browser if malicious apps change settings without permission.

Google has added a reset button in the latest updates for its Chrome Web browser to help users recover their browser settings when malicious apps load themselves and add toolbars or new settings or make other undesired changes.

"Online criminals have been increasing their use of malicious software that can silently hijack your browser settings," wrote Linus Upson, a Google vice president, in an Oct. 31 post on the Google Chrome Blog. "This has become a top issue in the Chrome help forums; we're listening and are here to help."

The problem most commonly occurs when online miscreants "trick you into installing and running this kind of software by bundling it with something you might want, like a free screensaver, a video plugin or—ironically—a supposed security update," wrote Upson. "These malicious programs disguise themselves so you won't know they're there and they may change your homepage or inject ads into the sites you browse. Worse, they block your ability to change your settings back and make themselves hard to uninstall, keeping you trapped in an undesired state."

To help users take that control back if their Chrome browser is hijacked in the future, Google has added a "reset browser settings" button in its latest Chrome update. The reset button "lets you easily return your Chrome to a factory-fresh state," wrote Upson.

The reset button can be found in the "Advanced Settings" section of Chrome's settings page.

Google's Chrome team has also made another security change to help protect users by automatically blocking downloads of malware as they are detected by Google, wrote Upton. A blocked download will issue a message on the user's screen advising him or her of the situation. The message will give the file name of the malicious application that is trying to download and then will tell the user that Chrome has blocked it, according to Upton.

The new reset button and automatic malicious download blocking are more tools that Google is using to help protect online users from fraud, hijackings and other problems, wrote Upton. "This is in addition to the 10,000 new websites we flag per day with Safe Browsing, which is used by Chrome and other browsers to keep more than 1 billion web users safe. Keeping you secure is a top priority, which is why we're working on additional means to stop malicious software installs as well."

In October, Google announced that it is testing new parental controls in the latest beta version of Chrome. The new beta Chrome browser includes settings that now allow parents to designate their youngsters as "supervised users" so they can oversee their browsing and other online activities. The beta browser version is being refined as the next eventual stable release of the open-source Web browser.

In September, the Chrome browser celebrated its fifth birthday. Launched in 2008 as a desktop or laptop application, Chrome today is widely used as a mobile browser on many different devices by users to browse the Web and conduct searches whether they are at home, at work, traveling or vacationing.

Chrome has had quite a ride since its birth. In June 2012, it surpassed Microsoft's Internet Explorer as the world's most used browser for the first time, and it added lots of useful features over the years to encourage even more users to adopt it.

Earlier in October, Chrome's latest iteration, Version 30, was released and included some 50 security patches and fixes, as well as easier search capabilities for finding images.

In September, Google announced that the Chrome Web browser will no longer work with a series of older, formerly popular Netscape-era Web browser plug-ins starting in January 2014, as the company works to shed the plug-ins to make its modern Chrome browsers even more reliable. The benefit of such a move will be that users will experience fewer glitches and crashes. The Netscape Plug-in API (NPAPI) had ushered in an early era of Web innovation by offering the first standard mechanism to extend the browser, according to Google. The move is being made now because NPAPI isn't used or supported on mobile devices, which includes a rapidly growing segment of Web users, and because the Mozilla Foundation is also planning to block NPAPI plug-ins in December 2013.