I no longer trust The Great Suspender

I know a number of folks use The Great Suspender to automatically suspend inactive browser tabs in Chrome. Apparently recent versions of this extension have been taken over by a shady anonymous entity and is now flagged by Microsoft as malware. Notably the most recent version of the extension (v7.1.8) has added integrated analytics that can track all of your browsing activity across all sites. Yikes.

Recommendations for users of The Great Suspender (7.1.8):

Temporary easy fix

  • Disable analytics tracking by opening the extension options for The Great Suspender and checking the box “Automatic deactivation of any kind of tracking”.
  • Pray that the shady developer doesn’t issue a malicious update to The Great Suspender later. (There’s no sensible way to disable updates of an individual extension.)

Permanent harder fix (👈 Recommended!)

  • Close as many unneeded tabs as you can.
  • Unsuspend all remaining tabs. ⏳
    • ⚠️ Any tabs that you forget to unsuspend will be lost when uninstalling The Great Suspender in the next step.
  • Uninstall The Great Suspender.
  • Download the latest good version of The Great Suspender (7.1.6) from GitHub, and move it to some permanent location outside your Downloads folder. (It should be commit 9730c09.)
  • Load your downloaded copy as an unpacked extension. (This copy will not auto-update to future untrusted versions of the extension.)
  • All done! 🎉

Caveat: My understanding is that installing an unpacked extension in this way will cause Chrome to issue a new kind of security prompt every time it is launched, which you’ll have to ignore. 😕 I see no security prompt for using an unpacked extension at least on macOS 10.14 Mojave with Chrome 88 and Developer Mode left on.

Other options

Other browser extensions for suspending tabs exist, as mentioned in the Hacker News discussion for this article. However I have not conducted my own security review on any of those other extensions, so buyer beware.

2021-02-06 Update: Wow. Google has pulled The Great Suspender from its web store. It is still possible to install the latest clean version of The Great Suspender using the “Permanent harder fix” instructions above. Or you might consider one of the alternatives suggested by Lifehacker.

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