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While Chrome has a few excellent safety checks built in, you can never be too careful when installing extensions from the hundreds of thousands available on the Chrome Web Store. Though generally safe, these extensions can be tiny malware missiles in disguise, infiltrating and attacking your browser. 

A Chrome extension changing ownership can be a particular red flag to be aware of, even if it doesn’t lead to anything awful—just because the former owner was careful about handling your data doesn’t mean the new one will be. This is where a Chrome extension called Under New Management can be useful.

How Under New Management works

Under New Management is a simple open-source extension for Chrome or Firefox.that will alert you when an installed extension has changed owners. This not only saves you from the bother of checking each extension yourself, but also protects you from extension subversion—a real and present danger many of us just might ignore (or forget).

You don’t have to do anything other than installing the extension, which will periodically check to see if the developer information listed on the Chrome Web Store for any of your installed extensions has changed. It will also alert you if any installed Chrome extension changes ownership in the future. If anything is different, the extension icon will show a red badge to alert you.

Why is Under New Management critical for your browser’s security?

As Matt Frisbie, the extension’s developer, notes on his GitHub repo page for Under New Management:

Extension developers are always offered to sell their popular extensions. The new ownership often exploits the existing user base for gains. The users of these extensions are usually unaware when an extension has been acquired and may unknowingly be exposed to potential risks.

This is a massive potential problem, considering Chrome’s user base on desktop and Android devices—an estimated 3.45 billion users in 2024. As Frisbie told The Register:

Extensions with many users get lots of acquisition offers, usually from individuals who can’t be easily identified and don’t disclose their intentions. If the user was notified of a change of ownership, they could potentially avoid all this.

So, Under New Management has one purpose—to inform you when this happens, and help you make an informed decision about whether to continue to use the extension. 

Don’t install and forget your Chrome extensions

While the problem is rare, it is real. There are numerous cases of Chrome extensions acting maliciously, so it’s a good idea to periodically review those you’ve installed, especially as they get older. Make it a habit to check for updates, too—an infrequent update schedule by the developers can open the door to security breaches and data leaks. 

Favor trustworthy extensions—look for the “Featured” badge in the Chrome Web Store, as these are often tagged by Google and follow Chrome’s best practices—and take additional steps to check if an extension is safe to use. 

You can also use a Chrome extension source viewer, but checking the source code of each installed extension can be inconvenient, especially if you don’t understand code. As far as I can tell, Under New Management is the only Chrome extension that automatically notify users of changes in extension ownership, so it’s a good addition to your browser’s security toolkit.

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