An extension on your browser is supposed to extend the functionality of the browser that you’d otherwise not get. But when that extension starts spying on you, it becomes a frustrating experience.
Without diving into technical details, which you can find over at mig5.net, let me just tell you that your beloved Awesome Screenshot Chrome extension, which is being/has been used by no less than 1,298,742 users at the time of this writing, has crushed your trust. It might have been recording all of your online activities while you kept it enabled. You thought Awesome Screenshot was letting you take screenshots of the web whenever you needed. But it has been doing far more.
The investigation by various programmers revealed that the extension not only monitors which sites (and pages) you visit, but also sends that information in plain text back to its (or somebody else’s) server. Again, the details of the investigation and the shocking results are available here.
It’s a sign that just because an app or tool is extremely popular does not mean it’s trustworthy. Which begs the question: How do you trust a tool you’re about to use?
Luckily, there is an amazing thing about installing new extension or app, and it exists on both Chrome browser and your Android devices. Whenever you begin installing something, a pop-up — both on Android and Chrome browser — will show you all the permissions that app is requesting. It’s a great way to know in advance how much information you’re giving that app access to. Now take a look at the screenshot below:
Before you installed this, did you wonder why does a screenshot-taking app/extension need to access your data on all websites and access your tabs and browsing activity? Isn’t Capture content of your screen is enough for the app/extension to work?
A lot of people didn’t care, except some professionals who finally uncovered what was going on behind the scene.
So next time you’re installing an app on your Android device or an extension on your Chrome browser, make sure to check what permission it’s asking for. If there’s something fishy, it’s time to be curious about it. And for those already using Awesome Screenshot Chrome extension, it’s best to remove it now that its silent irrelevant activities have come to light.