Feeds

Google Web Store quietly purged of nosy apps

Super Mario could see 'every page that you visit'

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Google's Chrome Web Store has quietly been purged of at least two games after a blogger revealed that the Flash-based browser extensions had unfettered access to all website data, browsing history, and bookmarks stored on users' computers.

The removal of Super Mario World and Super Mario World 2 came without explanation following a post published Thursday by mobile-security blogger David Rogers, who took the time to read the fine print in Google's Chrome application bazaar. The most troubling caveat, which Google displayed only when users clicked through several layers of links, was the following:

This item can read every page that you visit – your bank, your web email, your Facebook page, and so on. Often, this kind of item needs to see all pages so that it can perform a limited task such as looking for RSS feeds that you might want to subscribe to.

Caution: Besides seeing all your pages, this item could use your credentials (cookies) to request your data from websites.

“It's pretty obvious how potentially bad the Mario extension could be, particularly when this is supposed to be just a Flash game,” Rogers wrote. “What really irks me though is the 'permissions by default' installation. You click one button and it's there, almost immediately with no prompt.”

Google has defended the web store for its Chrome browser by pointing out – correctly, we'd add – that privacy risks of each app, extension, and theme available are disclosed, and that online forums allow users to share any negative experiences with company employees and fellow users.

“It appears that the blogger you referenced actually witnessed these protections at work,” a Google spokesman wrote in an email. “By looking at the clearly visible permissions that signal the level of access that is being requested, as well as the user reviews featured prominently on the page, users can make a determination if an app is suspicious or not. This transparency helps people make informed decisions about which applications they trust.”

But the spokesman declined to even acknowledge that the apps were removed, let alone say why. He also declined to say whether Google employees are permitted to install Chrome add-ons that have access to their website data, cookies, browsing history, and other sensitive data.

Google's Chrome Web Store isn't the only source of browser add-ons that have access to some of users' most intimate web habits. An extension for Mozilla Firefox with more than seven million downloads was recently caught cataloging every website a user visited and combining it with the user's IP address and a unique identifier – without any notice in the corresponding privacy policy.

In all, there about about 17,000 apps, extensions, and themes in the Chrome store. Remember, just because they're available from Google's servers doesn't mean the company says they won't access personal information you probably want to keep private. ®

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Google recommends pronounceable passwords
Super Chrome goes into battle with Mr Mxyzptlk
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
THREE QUARTERS of Android mobes open to web page spy bug
Metasploit module gobbles KitKat SOP slop
'Speargun' program is fantasy, says cable operator
We just might notice if you cut our cables
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Snowden, Dotcom, throw bombs into NZ election campaign
Claim of tapped undersea cable refuted by Kiwi PM as Kim claims extradition plot
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.