Mozilla drops top security tools over snooping fears
Mozilla has removed four Firefox extensions created by Avast and its subsidiary AVG after receiving credible reports that the extensions had harvested user data as well as user's browsing histories.
The four extensions which have been removed are Avast Online Security, AVG Online Security, Avast SafePrice and AVG SafePrice. The first two display warnings when users navigate to known malicious or suspicious sites while the other two show price comparisons and deals for online shoppers.
The fact that the extensions were collecting much more data than required was discovered by AdBlock Plus' creator Wladimir Palant who sent a report to Mozilla informing the Firefox maker of his discovery.
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After analyzing the Avast Online Security and AVG Online Security extensions last month, Palant found that they were both collecting additional data including detailed user browsing history.
Palant published a blog post detailing his findings at the end of October but in a second blog post, he revealed that the Avast SafePrice and AVG SafePrice extensions were also collecting unnecessary data.
The first blog post did not get the attention Palant thought it would and so he reported the extensions to Mozilla developers. The Firefox maker quickly took action and removed all four add-ons from its portal within 24 hours.
However, at the time of writing, the four extensions are still available on the Chrome Web Store. In his second blog post, Palant explained how difficult it is to get an extension removed from Google Chrome, saying:
"And what about Google? Google Chrome is where the overwhelming majority of these users are. The only official way to report an extension here is the “report abuse” link. I used that one of course, but previous experience shows that it never has any effect. Extensions have only ever been removed from the Chrome Web Store after considerable news coverage.”
Collecting a user's browsing history is strictly prohibited by both Mozilla and Google, so expect the four extensions from Avast and AVG to be removed from the Chrome Web Store soon.
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