Popular anti-virus extensions listen to users by gathering an incredible amount of information
Avast and AVG anti-virus browser extensions collect significantly more information about people than is needed to run services, security audit revealed by Webuze
Wladimir Palant, creator and software developer of Adblock Plus, the ad-blocking ad extension that looked at extensions, found a total of four AVG and Avast browser extensions that wanted to know too much about users - Avast Online Security, AVG Online Security, Avast Safeprice and AVG Safeprice.
The fact that the problematic browser extensions seem to come from two different companies is actually easy to explain. Namely, Avast was acquired by AVG in 2016 and although the brands used are still different, they are essentially the same company.
Palant found that the following information about the user would be sent to Avast:
- The full address of the web page the user has
- A unique user identification number that is created to be tracked by the extension
- The name of the page
- Information on how the page was reached - for example, through a link, bookmark, or direct address entry
- Whether the person has visited this page before
- User country code
- The browser name and its version number
- Operating system name and version number
According to Palant, all this information can be used to create an exact reconstruction of what a person has done on the Internet - how many tabs are open, what pages are being refreshed, how often, how much time is spent on a particular page, what is clicked, and even when the tab is changed. .
The discoverer shared the findings with developers of both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. The Avast and AVG extensions have already been removed from the Firefox Extensions Store because the company did not correct the issues identified within 24 hours, as requested by Mozilla. However, extensions are still available in the Chrome Store.
According to Avast's representatives, gathering information is necessary to protect people from phishing attempts and access to infected websites. It was also said that no identified data would be used. "We have already completed some of Mozilla's new extensions and will be developing versions that fully meet them. They will be available in the Mozilla extension store exactly as they were before," Avast told Webuze.