Browser Add-on ‘Web of Trust’ Caught Selling Users’ Sensitive Data

Web of Trust

The browser extensions have become the standard part of most popular Internet browsers and also an essential part of our lives for surfing the net. Although, not all browser extension can be trusted. One of such innocent looking browser add-on has been caught gathering browsing histories of million of the users and selling them to the third parties for making illegal benefit. An investigation by the German TV channel Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) has discovered the serious of privacy breaches by the WoT (Web Of Trust). It is one of the top security and privacy browser extension which is used by more than 140 Million users in order to help keep them safe online.

WOT has been offering the service “Safe Web Search & Browsing” since year 2007. The Web of Trust browser extension, which is available for both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, uses crowd-sourcing to rate the websites based on their trustworthiness and child safety. Besides, it turns out that the WoT service records extensive data about the netizens’ web browsing activities through its web browser add-on and then sells them off to the various third party companies. What is extremely worrying is that Web of Trust add-on didn’t properly anonymize the data it gathers on its users, which means that it is quite easy to expose users’ real identity and every details related to them.

The Web of Trust Privacy Policy states that your geo-location, operating system, web addresses, browser usage, IP address, the type of device, the date and time and the type of browser you use are collected, bu they’re in “non-identifiable” format. However, the German Television channel NDR found that it is extremely easy to link an anonymized data to its individual users. The NDR reporters were focused on the small data sample of around 50 Web of Trust users, and were able to recover a lot of data, included:

  • Account name

  • Sexual preferences

  • Mailing address

  • Possible illness

  • Confidential company data

  • Travel plans

  • Shopping habits

  • Ongoing police investigations

  • Drug consumption

  • Browser surfing activities including all websites visited.

These data belonged to just 50 WoT users and this add-on has more than 140 Million users. From here, you can easily image why the entire matter is of huge concern. From now, anyone using the Web of Trust extension is strongly recommended to remove the extension right now. Also, WoT has a mobile application that will be not be immune onto this data collection.

Note: Mozilla Firefox has already removed the Web of Trust extension from Firefox Add-on page, and in turn, WoT removed the extension from Chrome Web Store as well.

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