Your Google and Mozilla Data Is For Sale, Here’s How To Secure It
A report by the Washington Post has revealed that Chrome and Firefox add-ons are selling personal data that they collect from people’s browsing habits. The investigation was conducted by Post tech columnist Geoffrey Fowler and an independent security researcher.
The investigation found as many as 4 million people have been leaking personal and corporate secrets through Chrome and Firefox. Browser extensions like add-ons and plug-ins, which are used for blocking ads, finding coupons or saving passwords, are collecting user data illegally. Most users install them assuming that they are legit because they are available on the browser’s menu.
These extensions have been found to be selling data to marketers, data brokers and even hackers. The reporter and the company saw the data leaks happening in real time. A website hosting business owner found his clients’ data available on a website called Nacho Analytics- a “marketing intelligence service”. It sells data about what websites are being visited the most by different accounts for as little as Sh5000 per month.
Some of the other sites with client data are:
DrChrono: a medical records service which has names of patients, doctors, and even medications.
Kareo: stores patient names
Southwest: stores first and last names, confirmation numbers of people checking into flights.
United: contains last names and passenger record numbers
OneDrive: contains hundreds of documents named “tax”
PanelMeasurement: can access private iPhone and Facebook photos opened in Chrome
The report also worryingly found that employees from more than 50 major corporations were exposing what they were working on in the titles of memos and project reports. Information about internal corporate networks and firewall codes was also available.
After Fowler reached out to Google and Mozilla, they shut down several of the extensions. Google deactivated seven while Mozilla shut down two.
Google recently announced it would begin requiring extensions to minimize the data they access while Mozilla is focused on reducing the damage add-ons can do.
What you can do to protect your data
Uninstall all your add-ons and reinstall the ones which are absolutely necessary. (On Chrome you can see where you add-ons are by copying chrome://extensions/ to the search bar)
Make sure you see the permissions you grant the extensions before you install them.
You can install a Virtual Private Network which provides the option to block sites known for tracking.
Ensure that your browser settings block any tracking. (On Chrome, you can select the ‘Do Not Track’ request).