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Beware Chrome Extensions – They May Steal Your Passwords

Beware Chrome Extensions

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Researchers Expose Chrome Extension Security Flaws That Allow Password Theft

A new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison reveals alarming vulnerabilities in Chrome browser extensions that enable malicious actors to steal plaintext passwords and sensitive user data entered into websites.

Beware chrome extensions - they may steal your passwords

Proof-of-Concept Extensions Reveals Failed Security Checks

The researchers found that the expansive permissions granted to Chrome extensions under the coarse-grained permission model allow unchecked access to a website’s DOM tree and elements like input fields. With no security boundary in place, extensions can freely scrape a site’s source code and programmatically extract user inputs via the DOM API, bypassing obfuscation protections.

To demonstrate the risk, the team created a proof-of-concept extension posing as a GPT assistant that can capture login pages, use CSS selectors to target password fields, and replace obfuscated inputs with unsafe text fields. Despite containing password stealing functionality, the extension passed Google’s Web Store review and was published, showing the failure of current security checks.

Measurements revealed that over 1,100 of the top 10,000 websites store passwords in plaintext HTML, while 7,300 were vulnerable to DOM API data extraction. The researchers also found that 17,300 extensions in the Web Store hold the permissions needed to steal data, some with millions of users.

Beware chrome extensions - they may steal your passwords

Image by Bleeping Computer

Examples of affected websites include Gmail, Facebook, Citibank, IRS, Capital One and others. Sensitive information like passwords, SSNs, and credit card details were observed in plaintext source code or DOM fields on these sites.

Solutions Require Restricting Extension Permissions

The research underscores the urgent need for security boundaries between extensions and websites. It also highlights the risks of plaintext password storage. Experts advise users to avoid unnecessary extensions, use password managers, and only install extensions from trusted sources. Google and other browser vendors also need to restrict overly broad extension permissions.

Overall, this troubling study shows that Chrome’s coarse-grained extension model permits password theft and content scraping. Without proper protections, millions of users’ sensitive data is alarmingly vulnerable.

Jesus Guzman

M&G Speed Marketing LTD. CEO

Jesus Guzman is the CEO and founder of M&G Speed Marketing LTD, a digital marketing agency focused on rapidly growing businesses through strategies like SEO, PPC, social media, email campaigns, and website optimization. With an MBA and over 11 years of experience, Guzman combines his marketing expertise with web design skills to create captivating online experiences. His journey as an in-house SEO expert has given him insights into effective online marketing. Guzman is passionate about helping businesses achieve impressive growth through his honed skills. He has proud case studies to share and is eager to connect to take your business to the next level.