Scam hijacks Google Chrome browser, tries to get your personal data

Scams that hijack the world's most popular browser, Google Chrome, are making the rounds again.

It starts with a fake error message. For computer users, this is a vexing problem because the underlying malicious code locks up the browser. "The bug that it triggers is more than just an annoyance in the sense that it will render your Chrome browser unresponsive,” Jerome Segura, Lead Intelligence Analyst at Malwarebytes, told Fox News.

“In our tests, it also caused the operating system (Windows) to become unstable if we let it run for a certain amount of time,” Segura said, adding that Google is looking into the issue.

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The issue was covered in a blog post this week by Malwarebytes, which was cited in a report by Ars Technica.

Google has not yet responded to a Fox News request for comment.

After the malicious code locks the browser, the fake warning tries to trick a user into calling a number. Then, a person posing as a company representative – from, for example, a well-known American technology company – asks for sensitive personal or financial information to fix the bogus issue.

“That's where it does become a serious issue for the individual," Inga Goddijn, executive vice president at Risk Based Security, told Fox News. "These messages are purposely designed to cause fear and provoke users into turning over sensitive information or in some cases even control of their computer. From there, the scammers really are in the driver's seat.” 

There are other variants of the scam too. For example, one that also locks up the browser offers fake deals, such as a gift card. 

Other browsers can be affected too, but since Chrome is the most widely used web browser – outpacing Microsoft Edge, Safari and Firefox – it has been the place where many users come across the problem.  

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Is there a fix?

There are fixes to the issue, but they vary depending on the scam.

In Windows, you can use the Task Manager to “end task” and terminate the browser. In macOS, users "force quit" a process, such as a browser.

In some cases, however, users have to reset their browser so it won't open to the last opened page. Otherwise the fake message will keep returning and locking up the browser.

No legitimate company will lock up your browser

Finally, it’s important to remember that no legitimate company would ever intentionally freeze a browser and force a user to reveal sensitive personal information.

Large tech companies do not send unsolicited messages or make unsolicited phone calls in order to obtain personal or financial information. Therefore, it's important not to provide any personal information in the case of unsolicited requests.