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Chrome Extensions Stealing Private Data of 1.7 Million Users

Google removed 500 malicious Chrome extensions from its Web Store after they found to inject malicious ads and siphon off user browsing data to servers under the control of attackers.


1 min read
Chrome Extensions Stealing Private Data of 1.7 Million Users

The findings come as part of a joint investigation by security researcher Jamila Kaya and Cisco-owned Duo Security, which unearthed 70 Chrome Extensions with over 1.7 million installations.

Upon sharing the discovery privately with Google, the company went on to identify 430 more problematic browser extensions, all of which have since been deactivated.

A Well-Concealed Malvertising Campaign

Using Duo Security's Chrome extension security assessment tool — called CRXcavator — the researchers were able to ascertain that the browser plugins operated by surreptitiously connecting the browser clients to an attacker-controlled command-and-control (C2) server that made it possible to exfiltrate private browsing data without the users' knowledge.

In addition to requesting extensive permissions that granted the plugins access to clipboard and all the cookies stored locally in the browser, they periodically connected to a domain that shared the same name as the plugin (e.g., Mapstrekcom, ArcadeYumcom) to check for instructions on getting themselves uninstalled from the browser.

Beware of Data-Stealing Browser Extensions

This is not the first time data-stealing extensions have been discovered on the Chrome browser. Last July, security researcher Sam Jadali and The Washington Post uncovered a massive data leak called DataSpii (pronounced data-spy) perpetrated by shady Chrome and Firefox extensions installed on as many four million users' browsers.

In response, Google began requiring extensions to only request access to the "least amount of data" starting October 15, 2019, banning any extensions that don't have a privacy policy and gather data on users' browsing habits.

For now, the same rule of caution applies: review your extension permissions, consider uninstalling extensions you rarely use or switch to other software alternatives that don't require invasive access to your browser activity.

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