Researchers discover secret habits of ‘Webpage Screenshot’ as Google Chrome extensions come under scrutiny
A malicious Google Chrome extension masquerading as a screenshot application is sending the browsing information of up to 1.2 million users to an IP address in the USA, researchers have discovered.
ScrapeSentry, which protects companies from the loss of intellectual property and data theft as a result of ‘scraping’, discovered the activity after identifying an “unusual” traffic pattern to one of its client’s sites.
Further analysis found that the ‘Webpage screenshot’ extension contained malicious code, exposing any information visible in your page title.
Google Chrome extensions
“The repercussions of this could be quite major for the individuals who have downloaded the extension,” said Cristian Mariolini, a security analyst at ScrapeSentry. “What happens to the personal data and the motives for wanting it sent it to the US server is anyone’s guess, but ScrapeSentry would take an educated guess it’s not going to be good news.
“And of course, if it’s not stopped, the plugin may, at any given time, be updated with new malicious functionality as well. We would hope Google will look into this security breach with some urgency.”
Google had not responded to TechWeekEurope’s requests for comment at the time of publication, but it appears as though the extension in question has been removed from the Chrome marketplace.
Indeed, it could have been one of as many as 192 malicious apps Google is said to have removed from the Chrome Extension web store. Most of these simply place unwanted advertising on web pages but others exhibit more sinister behaviour.
The search giant and security experts analysed more than 100 million visits to Google sites and found five percent of people visiting every single day are affected by at least one unsafe extension on various browsers – a third of which have four or more installed.
Google is no stranger to dealing with such software, after removing many Android apps from Google Play over similar concerns.
Are you a Google expert? Take our quiz!