Google recently removed over one hundred extensions off its browser that illegally collected user data, targeting large industries such as oil, gas, finance, and healthcare.
A recent example is a disclosure of more than 100 Google browser extensions that collected sensitive data for a massive global surveillance campaign.
An article on The Hacker News explained:
Google recently removed 106 more extensions from its Chrome Web Store after they were found illegally collecting sensitive user data as part of a “massive global surveillance campaign” targeting oil and gas, finance, and healthcare sectors.
“This campaign and the Chrome extensions involved performed operations such as taking screenshots of the victim device, loading malware, reading the clipboard, and actively harvesting tokens and user input,” Awake Security said.
But don’t let the fact that this particular campaign targeted specific industries give you a false sense of security. Another campaign could be designed to target any specific industries or a more general audience that includes you.
And you won’t know if you’re being targeted, why you’re being targeted, or what data is being collected without your permission.
In fact, these 106 Google extensions “leveraged evasion techniques to avoid flagging the domains as malicious by anti-malware solutions, thereby allowing the surveillance campaign to go undetected.”
That is the scary part. Even your anti-malware solutions might not catch attempts by future browser extensions to siphon private data from your browser.
This isn’t the only time this has happened, either…
Back in February 2020, a batch of 500 Google browser extensions were revealed by an investigation to have violated the privacy of average people to varying degrees.
According to this study, the extensions connected to a piece of Google browser software that “made it possible to exfiltrate private browsing data without the users’ knowledge.”
In another instance of privacy piracy, a total of 49 Google browser extensions were caught hijacking cryptocurrency wallets.
In all of these situations, the offending extensions were removed once they were caught. But at that point, the damage had already been done.
So what can you do?
First, you should delete any browser extensions you haven’t used in the last three months, no matter what browser you’re using.
Next, whenever you choose a browser extension, you should read up on it. Is it from a trusted source? What are people saying about it?
One caveat: Don’t focus solely on 5-star reviews because some of those could potentially be fake.
But even if you follow these steps, there is a bit more work to be done. The good news is, what you have left to do can be done much more simply.
Don’t let the rest of your private data become an anchor
Internet data can be used to track your exact location, eating habits, spending habits, your income, your online surfing habits, and many other parts of your private life.
With just a few clicks, a phone call, and a few dollars, almost everything a company or government agency wants to find out about you can quickly be put together into a complete file.
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To living privately,
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