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I read this: https://duo.com/decipher/malicious-chrome-extension-backdoor-uncovered-in-malware-campaign#:~:text=One%20of%20these%20is%20a,system%20and%20installing%20the%20extension. I quote this part from that article:

The browser extension, which includes samples dating back to August 2018, is delivered via an executable (not from the Chrome Extension store) with the sole function of preparing the system and installing the extension.

You can install a Chrome extension with the registry in Windows, but then the extension has to be on the Chrome Extension Store. How is it possible that a .exe file can install a chrome extension without the extension being published online?

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  • If you run a malicious executable, it has full control over your account and probably your whole computer. Unless you have some sort of sandboxing you should assume that malware on your computer can do anything.
    – eesiraed
    Apr 2 at 22:28

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The most obvious candidate to me is putting the browser into developer mode, which enables sideloading extensions and is a simple configuration toggle. At that point, you can install extensions from any source, even loose files on the file system.

It's also likely possible to install new files into existing extensions, or create completely new extensions that aren't on the store, via manipulating some config or other. Developer mode is easier though, and not very obvious to the user.

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The Registry in Windows is extremely powerful, it might be your most sensitive settings db in the software. You can actually install any kind of program you want that's supported in the registry, change all kinds of settings, privilege levels, pretty much anything you want. Now just so you're aware about Chrome Extensions, they're actually just packages of javascript with some other resources.

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