Google has removed a popular Chrome desktop-browser extension called The Great Suspender from the Chrome Web Store, following numerous complaints that the open-source extension's new maintainer had injected it with malware.
The Great Suspender was used by Chrome users to "suspend" open tabs, freeing up their memory. It was particularly useful for computers with 8GB of RAM or less. Often, these users would hit a wall when having more than a dozen or so tabs open. (Chrome is a notorious memory hog.)
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If you have The Great Suspender loaded as an extension in other Chromium-based browsers such as Brave, Edge, Opera or Vivaldi, make sure it's disabled. The extension has already been removed from Chrome users' desktop browsers.
Suspicions about The Great Suspender date back to November, several months after the extension's original developer announced that he was handing over the project (opens in new tab) to an anonymous party.
The extension's actual code began to differ from what was posted on the extension's GitHub page (opens in new tab), and included new tracking code and links to mysterious websites.
Yesterday (Feb. 4), Google apparently took The Great Suspender's Chrome Web Store page (opens in new tab) down and actively removed it from Chrome users' browsers.
One Reddit user put up a screen grab of a browser notification (opens in new tab) that informed him that "this extension may be dangerous" and that "'The Great Suspender' has been disabled because it contains malware."
We can't verify if that image is real, but it's pretty certain that The Great Suspender is gone from the Chrome Web Store. The page returns a 404 "page not found" error.
Not everyone knew this was coming
The sudden removal of the extension didn't sit well with users of The Great Suspender, many of whom apparently didn't know about the malware dangers.
"Is anyone else using the great suspender? Chrome just closed all my tabs and told me it's malware," wrote Reddit user shez33 (opens in new tab). "Is there any way to bypass this? Literally the only reason I still use chrome is because this and session buddy."
"Chrome just disabled The Great Suspender saying that it is malware," wrote TechDirt editor Mike Masnick on Twitter. "That's the only extension that makes Chrome bearable with as many tabs as I have open."
Uh... Chrome just disabled The Great Suspender saying that it is malware. That's the only extension that makes Chrome bearable with as many tabs as I have open. Anyone know what's going on?!?February 4, 2021
Such users lost all their open tabs when The Great Suspender disappeared. The extension's original creator has posted instructions on GitHub on how to recover them (opens in new tab).
This isn't the first time a decent Chrome extension has been hijacked by crooks. Far worse are Chrome extensions that spy on users, inject ads and even steal saved information from Day One, a problem that dates back years. Google has gotten better about policing the Chrome Web Store, but it still has a long way to go.
To avoid having malicious Chrome extensions in your browser, use only those extensions you absolutely need and disable the rest in chrome://extensions/. Before installing an extension, check its user ratings in the Chrome Web Store to see if anyone mentions suspicious behavior.
And if you're worried about Chrome taking up too much memory, try using Brave or Edge instead. Both are almost exactly the same as Chrome, right down to handling Google Docs properly, but use up a lot less RAM.